Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week: My Story of Anxiety and Panic Disorder

It's Mental Health Awareness week (12-18th May) in the UK and so this post is taking a turn from my usual topic onto my own experience with a mental health illness - anxiety and panic disorder. Mental health is an issue very close to my heart not only because of my own experiences with it but seeing my loved ones struggle as well. I hope it doesn't come off as narcissistic bullshit but it is a very self involved account because it is a very isolating illness and the events which took place were entirely in my head.

I'll start from, what I thought was, the beginning. Some time in early June 2011 at about 9pm, I was revising for my upcoming A-Level finals when I was filled with the most horrible feeling of dread which hit me in the pit of my stomach. I believed I was going to die. I thought that the lyrics in the music I was listening to while revising were telling me I was going to die imminently. I went into a state of fight or flight panic that I'd not experienced before. I felt sick, sweaty and couldn't think straight. My breathing was short and my vision went odd. All of the symptoms I was experiencing were feeding into my deluded thoughts about my imminent demise. I remember going to sit in the same room with my mum but being unable to verbalise what I was experiencing or how I was feeling. I couldn't tell anyone what I was experiencing because I was afraid that mentioning it would jinx it. I felt as if the universe had a sick sense of humor and would smote me down on the mere mention of death and dying. This is what I now know to be a state of psychosis. I'd lost touch with reality.

In the days following from this incident I was constantly feeling sick and had these horrible thoughts about dying clouding my mind. It stopped me from revising and this in turn added to the stress of the exams so I went to the doctor. Two of my friends came along with me but they didn't know the full extent of my condition. In hindsight I can't blame the doctor for his response because I wasn't at all honest with him either. I told him I was feeling sick and that I was taking my A-Levels. He diagnosed me with stress and was fairly reassuring it would pass. He tried to prescribe me beta blockers but as I was scared of dying the last thing I wanted was my heart slowing down so I declined and he prescribed me some anti-sickness tablets and sent me on my way. I was so distraught that he'd not picked up on my actual feelings because there was absolutely no way I could tell him myself.  I never took the doctor's pills because I carefully read the leaflet that came with them. It said they were primarily used as antipsychotics for schizophrenics. This made me worse because from then I thought I was alone and crazy. My nausea turned into vomiting before/during/after every meal.

After the incident with the doctor I attended all of my exams and did a fairly good job I thought. I got a couple of days where I wasn't as bad, the sickness was dissipating and I thought it was beginning to subside just as the doctor said. The day after my final exam I woke up fresh as a daisy and promptly vomited in the back garden whilst waiting for the kettle to boil for my morning coffee. My mum saw and didn't entirely know what to say - she told me to go back to the doctor again. I was so upset. I thought things were getting better but I was feeling worse than ever. I couldn't celebrate finishing my exams because I was still anxious, vomiting and short of breath. This was my lowest point.

I returned to the doctor and saw a different lady this time. She'd always been really kind to me. I broke down in tears in her office as I told her everything I'd been feeling. She was really concerned and quickly took me through an assessment to make a diagnosis. She provisionally diagnosed me with anxiety and panic disorder and made a referral for a an assessment and a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This was where I felt the most relief from the horrible ordeal. I had to wait a fortnight for my first assessment appointment. Over the next two weeks I was continually sick and saw my weight drop from a healthy 9'5 to a gaunt 8'6 within the first week. I barely left the house, I left occasionally for the odd night out to keep up the pretence to my friends that I was okay. I felt terrible due to drinking jagerbombs loaded with caffeine which sent my heart racing so I stopped going out after that. I told my two friends who came with me to the doctors the first time and they kept checking in on me which was nice, I didn't feel so alone.

The next part was a blur. Over the next 3 months I received CBT for an hour once every fortnight. I learned how to control my breathing and dissipate any negative thoughts. I tended to only leave the house for these sessions and tried to double them up with visiting my family. I also went to stay at my boyfriend's house in Worksop a few times for extended periods. I had to use the train to get there which caused me a lot of trauma. Unfortunately he was quite unsupportive during this time and tried to talk to me about dying which I hated every moment of. I'd learned to calm myself down but I'd not learned to stop getting worked up. One morning when I was at his, I got a phone call from my dad telling me my grandma had died. I was quite far on with my treatment and this was my first test for dealing with my fears head on. My dad took me to see her body but I stayed in the foyer of the funeral home facing the wall, avoiding the headstones and literature. When the day came for her funeral I didn't feel a thing. I felt empty.

When exam results day came I found I'd missed my grades but upon calling UCAS I found out Sheffield had accepted me anyway. In less than two weeks I'd be living in Sheffield. I was overjoyed. Later on that day I went to my 7th CBT session and was feeling much better about my anxiety and actually went shopping for uni stuff later that day. The night before I moved into my new flat in Sheffield I had a massive argument with my boyfriend because he didn't understand how upset I was about leaving my family because I'd be losing my support. When I moved into my flat I wasn't daunted and I wasn't going to let the anxiety get to me. I had my final therapy session over the phone with my therapist who said she was satisfied I was well enough not to need treatment and would write to my doctor to tell them so.

From then on it has been a slow recovery of getting back my confidence, leaving people who made my feelings worse behind and accepting helpful people into my life. Although I finished my treatment I had to use what I'd learned in real life situations. I also spent a lot of time reflecting on the start point of my illness, as I started to remember things made a lot more sense to me. I'd initially become ill from exam stress but previously I'd been to the doctors with chest pains and told there was nothing physically wrong with me. I'd also had three panic attacks at various intervals before then, one was following an RE lesson about death in year 9. Even then I still wondered if there was anything more. Had I been born this way? It was odd seeing myself going from a 13 year old who was confident enough to sing and play guitar in front of a crowd to a recluse who couldn't leave the house at 18.

I'm still getting my life back today. I've been in and out of treatment since to try and explore the possibilities behind the illness and attempting not to let stress get the better of me. It has got bad on occasion but at least now I can get the train without crying. I sometimes still humm in awkward social situations and flick my toes for good luck. Sometimes I feel like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as the anxiety is completely different to my actual personality. I've learned to live with anxiety and overcome everyday situations, which most people do not even think about, which still incite fear within me. Remember if you are struggling you need to tell someone and don't let it take over your life. It's a long road but you can beat it.

Friday, 9 May 2014

A Look at Tesco Homeware

Today's post is a collection of my favourite picks from Tesco's homeware section. They've got some really strong themes with larger pricier items and smaller accessories for smaller budgets. Everything in this post is under £20 so you are bound to find something you like and can afford and even if not, these things are all utterly beautiful to look at.

An absolutely gorgeous quilt cover, the blue looks more vibrant in real life so would add a beautiful pop of colour to a boring room. The print and colour palette reminds me of the Ted Baker cubist floral range (pictured here) which is beautiful but costly. 

This cup and saucer set caught my eye because it looks very similar to the platinum banded crockery designed by Vera Wang for Wedgewood (pictured here) which retails for £15. You could buy an entire 4 piece set of the Tesco ones for the price of one Vera Wang one which, in my home anyway, would inevitably get broken.

A really fun cushion which would just take the tone of a room down. Would look perfect on a wicker chair or amongst a red and white theme.

I love the shape of this glass jar so this candle would look just as beautiful unlit as it did aflame. You could also reuse the jar once the candle has burned down to store your trinkets in.

Retro inspired bedding is always a winner in my books! This is a lovely print and I'm planning on buying this for my own room because I love it so much.

Another fun retro inspired idea for the kitchen. It would be even better if the people living in your house have the initials which make up the word 'home'.

The chevron pattern has become massively popular in recent months and Tesco has managed to tap into this trend with this piece. The rug comes in both navy and red shades and is a decent size at just under a meter long.
What's your favourite item?

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Saviour Snack Box Review

Saviour Snack Box

Today's post is a review of the Saviour Snack subscription Box, a fantastic little goodie box full of treats which are extremely healthy and good for you. The box I bought was the Super Skinny Box, £14.95 £4.95 including delivery (available weekly, fortnightly or monthly), containing 14 snacks which are 120 calories or less. Saviour have various different snack boxes to choose from depending on your budget and dietary requirements - I chose this box because I'm looking to discover healthy snacks and realised that if I ate one thing a day then it would last me 2 weeks.

Saviour Snack Box Review

When the box was delivered I was having a pretty crappy day so being presented with this gorgeous box my mood was instantly lifted. The first thing that I loved about this concept is that it feels super indulgent and exciting but is totally guilt-free. Everything is perfectly packaged and I really looked forward to delving into the little treasure chest once a day to get my mid-afternoon snack. I think the fact that I knew I wasn't putting absolute crap in my body amplified this feeling. Having a little crib sheet about the box's contents helped - it details everything from calories to vegan status so you can be sure you know what is going into your body.

Saviour Snack Box Review

My box contained a good mix of branded and Saviour's own products and the range changes with every box. I was worried that the entire box would just be full of mixed fruit and nuts but there was a nice selection of different things, they've gone to a massive effort to create some interesting fruit and nut combinations. I adored the Pogo Pack which had some yummy berries, almonds and pumpkin seed. The great thing about the snacks is that they are decently portioned and great for putting in your bag so you'll never have to make a poor food choice when out and about again.  I'm pleased they provided both sweet and savory snacks so I have a choice depending on my mood. From my box I particularly enjoyed the Nairs Cheese Oaty Bakes, the Bear Pineapple YoYo and, my absolute favourite, the Clearly Scrumptious Golden Berries.

I have looked about to see if I can get all of my favourites for normal shops and found everything either at Tesco or online, most items are around the £1 mark and made me feel a little bit better about the expense of the service. In terms of it being a discovery service it works very well for me as I'm not used to buying healthy snacks (read: I usually eat crisps) so I've discovered new things that I'd purchase again. In terms of price, there is no way I'd be able to justify paying full price for this service regularly at the moment, £15 is quite expensive and equates to a weeks shop for myself (!). If you are interested you can sign up to their newsletter (here) and get a box for £4.95 and then cancel your subscription. Until I have a full time job and no other pressing responsibilities I'll have to put this one on hold but it is something I'd love to have in the future because it is so delicious and makes snacking less complicated.

Would you subscribe to something like this?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Lancome Hypnose Mascara for just £10!

To celebrate 10 years since the launch of Lancome's infamous Hypnose mascara, you can purchase it for , just £10 from Debenhams! It's usually £22.50 so this is an absolute bargain but be warned, this offer is only available for 24 hours so be quick! Click here to purchase (also available in Debenhams stores nationwide).