Anxiety and I..

October 10th 2017: World Mental Health Day

A day dedicated to fundraising and raising awareness about mental health, breaking down stigma’s and speaking out about the reality of our illnesses.

Roughly around this time last year I was diagnosed with depression which had a huge impact on my life, it changed everything about me but it also brought me to creating my blog. I’ll link my story with depression here. Something I don’t think I’ve really spoken or written about is anxiety and considering I’ve dealt with it for as long as I can possibly remember, I guess today would be the day to speak about it.

What is anxiety??? 

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD): feelings of unease such as worry or fear that can be mild or severe – NHS. OR: Regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things in your everyday life – Mind.

Social Anxiety Disorder: extreme fear or anxiety triggered by social situations e.g parties, workplaces or any situation where you encounter others – Mind.

I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, I’d say I was anywhere between age 13-15 when I first noticed it but I didn’t know what it was. I had the typical symptoms like increased heart rate and sweating and I think my dad was the first person I’d mentioned it to. He said it sounded like anxiety but he didn’t really explain what that meant so I guess I just ignored it for a while. As life went on, I learnt to understand what it was and how it worked for me. I realised it was based on my thoughts or worries or anything that made me feel nervous. I would have anxiety meeting new people, going to new places, interviews or exams, talking to people I wasn’t very comfortable with etc. I never went to a doctor or really told anybody about it because it really just became a part of me and I learnt to live with it.

The only time I had any help with my anxiety was when I was diagnosed with depression. I was taking anti-depressants for a few months which also helped make me feel less anxious and considering I no longer take any medication, looking back now I see how much it really helped. Anxiety affects me literally everyday and back then, I was anxiety free for months! Having depression and anxiety at the same time is the equivalent of having a devil and an angel on your shoulder. Depression meant that I didn’t care about anything, the world could pass me by and I wouldn’t have cared but anxiety was a constant reminder of everything I should have been worrying about – a mental battle. At times when I would be quite stressed out or have a lot going on, I’d wake up in the morning and my instant and first thoughts would be me worrying. Whether it was an upcoming deadline, a family issue, bills I had to pay or my incomplete but urgent to-do-list, I’d be thinking of it. First thing in the morning – anxiety.

Lately my anxiety has been extremely social and situational based. I developed social anxiety almost a year ago at a time when I had a lot going on. It started with university and I never wanted to go in, I honestly feared seeing people I knew or being around so many people. I’d avoid it at all costs and if I ever had to go, I’d go at a time when I new it would be quiet and I’d be in-and-out as fast as I possibly could. I was dealing with a situation that everyone seemed to think they knew about. At that time my stress, my pain and my problems was simply everyone else’s entertainment and gossip and I hated that. I just wanted to hide from everyone and I guess that’s where my social anxiety started.

Recently, my anxiety has been fuelled by all the recent and frequent incidents and attacks happening. I never used to live in fear and I always said I wouldn’t but it’s becoming harder not to. Acid attacks, bombs on trains, vehicles mounting pavements – I never used to think “tomorrow isn’t promised”, I just never thought like that at all but unfortunately, those are some of my everyday worries now. I hate to think that anything could happen to myself or a loved one and it makes me feel uneasy knowing there are people I’m not on the best terms with right now.

Mental illnesses are real. There is so much stigma that surrounds mental health, a lot of disbelief and a lot of downplaying, but as someone who has experienced mental illness I want to speak up and encourage others to do the same. When I was diagnosed with depression I didn’t actually speak to people about it for a while because I didn’t think I’d be taken seriously. A lot of people don’t understand it because they can’t see it and it’s not always easily explained. If someone breaks their leg, you can physically see the problem but if someone asked me to explain depression I wouldn’t know how to. Be kind, be sensitive and be as understanding as you possibly can. If you don’t know, aim to educate yourself. It’s okay to ask questions, as long as they’re not asked in an insensitive or malicious way.

If you have experienced mental illness, I encourage you to speak out. Feel free to comment below! If you want to share your story or know more about mine or just have any general questions but want to stay anonymous, you can email me at elisemathurin@gmail.com or simply fill out my contact form.

elisekirstenxo.

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I Overcame my Depression???

It’s coming up to almost a year since I started my blog which I began as a kind of New Years resolution. I was at a point where I had been through a lot and I was ready to start expressing myself and tell a part of my story so I started my blog and my first post outlined my story with depression. Almost a year later and of course so much has changed, so in light of finally owning my domain as well as finally feeling content with my life and being in a good place, I felt now’s the perfect time to review the past 9 months!

If you’ve been reading since the very beginning (thank you, I appreciate you!) you’ll have read my first ever post about being diagnosed with depression but if not I’ll link it here. Here’s a quick overview:

November 2016: I was diagnosed with depression and prescribed anti-depressants. I was also going through counselling too although I quickly dropped out of it. Everything in my life felt like a crumbling mess; university, friendships, relationships, my social life etc. I won’t go too far into detail because this is just an overview and I want to focus more on how I got passed this not so great chapter of my life.

I’m guessing most people won’t know this but once you start anti-depressants, roughly the first two weeks are absolutely dreadful and can actually enhance your emotions and negative thoughts whilst the drug works its way into your system, so it’s just your body’s/minds way of adjusting to it. I remember just wanting to sleep those two weeks away completely because I felt the worst I ever did. Anyway, pushed through and continued taking my medication and it really did help to level out my emotions. I felt like I could finally think a little clearer and start putting some pieces of my life together – or at least locate the glue to do so.

I quickly started feeling really positive which most would think is great but I’d found all this motivation and inspiration to fight my depression and get my life back on track almost instantly. I had great thoughts and my intentions were good I just didn’t know how to execute it properly. Only about a month later and I’d stopped taking my medication and I wasn’t in counselling anymore because I was determined to combat this by myself. I just hit rock bottom all over again, in fact I think this time was even worse. Turns out I wasn’t ready to stop taking my medication and I think it just caused a crazy chemical imbalance. I wasn’t functioning whatsoever, this time I could feel my friends & family’s worry and concern so I knew it was bad. I guess I needed an intervention and one of my close friends did just that. Every morning I’d wake up to a glass of water and my daily tablet followed by a mouth inspection to make sure I’d actually swallowed the tablet.

I felt like an invalid but I did really need that (thank you!). For the next few months I was battling with my medication. Eventually I stopped taking them prematurely again but it all worked out for the best and I didn’t fall back into depression. I focused on getting my life back together, rebuilding friendships and surrounding myself with the right people because I really needed that. At that time so much had gone on and I didn’t trust anybody, my anxiety was crazy so I was really just focused on getting back to being me.

Slowly but surely, it was working. I was blogging and that alone was like therapy for me, I was meeting new people and going places again, I started feeling good about myself finally. I did random things that made me happy like cutting all my hair off, that was one of the best decisions I’d made and I wish I’d done it sooner but everything has it’s time! It felt like I was reinventing myself whilst still finding the old me. The truth is that I still have bad days, where I don’t want to see or speak to anyone, where I cry three times in a day, where my thoughts are filled of self-doubt and worries. Days like that scare me. I get scared that I’m now more susceptible to depression again and the thought alone makes me want to curl into a ball and hide but those days pass the next day is always a better one!

I look back to where my life was 9 months ago and I literally think “wow”. At that time I never thought I’d get passed it all, I thought I wasn’t strong enough, I’d be in that dark place forever. I learnt that we are always stronger than we think and the light in the dark tunnel will always show. Sometimes it presents itself as a person who says and does all the right things just when we need it the most, sometimes its a job opportunity or life takes you somewhere you never thought you’d end up but it’s where you needed to be. It all sound cliche but your pain, your current situation is temporary. Big or small, whatever it is, you’ll overcome it and you’ll look back and think “wow”.

So far you’ve survived 100 percent of your worst days. This too shall pass. – Unknown

elisekirsten xo.

My Autoimmune Disease: Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis

I wrote a similar post over a month ago now on how I’d been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and as it was all new to me, I felt really alone with it all and was hoping there were others out there who could share their stories with me. Almost two months later and I’m ready to do an update!

If you haven’t read my last post which I’ll link here, and you’re unsure what Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is, here’s some info:

RA is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disease that mistakenly attacks the healthy cells in your body, causing inflammation (painful swelling) in various joints of the body. It can also affect and cause problems in organs such as the heart, lungs and eyes. Long term, it can result in deformity and immobility.

At age 20, I had a left knee injury which caused the onset of my RA. My knee became seriously inflamed and swollen and very painful. Walking let alone anything else became a task. A year later after many tests, x-rays and MRI’s, I was told I had RA and at that time, it had spread to my right knee. A month later, it had spread to my right elbow and the left side of my jaw. Typically, RA is more common in hands and feet but it can affect all joints.

The inflammation, swelling and pain is called a ‘flare’ and flare ups can happen very frequently or every now and again. RA is genetic and my dad was diagnosed with it several years ago yet he’s only experienced one short flare up in his wrist. Whereas I on the other hand, feel as though I’ve had this flare for roughly a year now. Shortly after my knee injury when it became inflamed and began to swell, it has never gone away. I only have bad days or better days.

Generally I’m happy, smiling and getting on with life and as much as I don’t want this to come across as a pity post, this can be a very serious disease and I want to share my honest story so far. The mornings are always the hardest. Because I’ve been sleeping for several hours, my joints become very stiff and I dread the morning stretch because it’s so painful for me now. My legs and right arm can no longer straighten properly so where my body naturally wants to stretch out, the swelling and inflammation acts as a painful barrier. I can barely open my mouth first thing in the morning because of my jaw so I try to keep yawning to a minimal. I practically crawl to the bathroom in the morning where getting up and down from the toilet seat is like mission impossible and I’m currently trying to learn to use my left hand for most things like brushing my teeth.

Honestly, I hate having to do things early in the morning because it doesn’t allow my joints time to ‘warm up’ so it’s all very painful. I’m very slow and can’t fully focus on whatever I should be doing. On bad days, it can affect my whole body because for all my affected joints, I usually have to substitute another part of my body so although my knees are inflamed, a lot of the time my legs generally ache because I’m shifting my weight and the pressure elsewhere. I often have a lot of pain in my hips and lower back too.

By mid afternoon, I’m usually back to my idea of my current normal self and I’m a lot more active and can move around more freely however as of lately, I am really struggling with fatigue. I feel exhausted all the time even with a decent amount of sleep. One thing I really have to focus on is my diet and what sort of foods I’m eating. There are a lot of inflammatory foods such as take away meals, fried foods, alcohol, bread, fizzy drinks and any processed foods. It might not sound a lot but on a daily basis it can prove a little hard to control. There are certain foods/drinks I have to have to help reduce inflammation such as fish, ginger, garlic, chai tea, green tea and fruits.

I’m currently waiting for my next few appointments to discuss treatment going forward. I’m expecting to take steroid injections mainly for my knees but as my disease has progressed I’m hoping to receive another medication for pain-relief too. I have been lucky enough to have private healthcare for the past few months which really has helped to speed up the process and answer a lot of questions for me. I’m sure I’ll do another update once I’ve started my treatment!

elisekirsten xo.

How I’ve lost weight!

I’ve always loved keeping fit and going to the gym. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been good at sticking to a healthy diet and I give in to cravings so easily but I definitely love working out! About 6 months ago now I was doing an Insanity workout video and ended up injuring my knee. I’m honestly quite a clumsy person and I actually hurt myself a lot lol so when I first had pains in my knee and leg I just thought it would sort itself out and I’d be fine but half a year later and it’s only gotten worse! I realised maybe a little too late that this wasn’t something that was just going to fix itself so I finally went to multiple doctors who all said “my goodness how have you done that, that’s a proper footballer injury” and now everyday I think ‘well maybe if I was a bloody footballer, I would definitely be on the road to recovery!’

On my worst days I can barely walk so from quite early on I’d completely cut out the gym and any kind of exercise. Six months and barely any exercise means of course I started putting on weight. I’ve never really cared enough to take note of how many pounds I put on or lose, I focus more on my appearance and I was definitely gaining some extra chub. I just remember eating any and everything and not even thinking about how it would impact my body. Just before my injury I was developing abs and my body was quite toned and as of lately, I just hadn’t been happy with how my body had been looking. It started to get me down because I really loved working out and cardio was probably my fav but I just felt like there was nothing I could do to really shift this extra weight the way I wanted to and knew how.

Naturally I began to lose weight through stress and that’s about the only thing I can thank all my stresses for but I wanted to maintain my weight and lose a little extra so I decided to look into a healthy eating regime. And then along came Protein World! I’d always been a bit sceptical about these weight loss programs mainly because of a lack of knowledge but it doesn’t hurt to try right? I use the Slender Blend protein powder as a meal replacement once/twice a day for breakfast and lunch and have small snacks in between if necessary. I have the chocolate and vanilla flavour (I prefer vanilla) and I mix mine with water. I’ve had it with milk too but I find it’s a bit too thick and anything with milk like milkshakes etc always makes me feel sick so water works best for me!

At the moment, I have a shake for breakfast and something light for lunch like a chicken salad and some fruit and maybe a light pasta or salmon for dinner. It’s not easy. I just wanted to make that clear because I have cravings and temptations as I’m sure we all do but I’ve kind of promised myself to make a conscious effort this time in staying healthy!

I hope this helps for anyone in a similar situation.

Elisekirsten xo.