Anxiety Abroad – HELP REQUIRED, APPLY WITHIN!

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For a while now something ominous and terrifying has been biding its time in the back ground of my life. I’ve seen it, lurking in the corners of my mind, just waiting patiently for the right moment. I’ve been happily just getting on with my life, ignoring my impending doom, but unfortunately the time has come. I can no longer ignore it. The horrible moment has come to face reality.

In two weeks’ time, I shall be going…

ON HOLIDAY TO INDIA!!!

Not only am I having a nice holiday but we’re also going to attending a traditional Indian wedding whilst we are over there.

I know, I know! That’s meant to be something totally awesome and spectacular and I’m the luckiest person ever. For me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I do feel very very lucky.
However at the same time I also feel very very TERRIFIED!!!

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As I have mentioned before, my anxiety is just a little bit inconvenient sometimes. Very recently I’ve been proud of myself for going out to the shops and driving on my own. I give myself a pat on the back if I get out on my own and quite rightly too.

And now all of a sudden I’m leaving my comfy, secure nest that I’ve made in the house to head out to India for 10 days!!

I AM NOT PREPARED GUYS, I AM NOT PREPARED!!!

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Many, many worries keep buzzing through my head keeping me up at night. Here are just a few…

1. I am pale and ginger. I am going to burn to a crisp.
2. Apparently, women in India can’t wear clothes that show cleavage, shoulders or knees. It’s not like I was planning on baring much flesh anyway but I have no cool clothes that I’m 100% certain won’t be found offensive.
3. I cannot stand spicy food. So not only am I going to burn on the outside, I’m going to burn on the inside. Well, at least I’ll be thoroughly cooked.
4. I don’t like flying. Our flight will be 11/12 hrs long. I reckon I might need to get a bit tipsy/find some diazepam to get through it.

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5. As beautiful as the wedding will be I’m anxious that I’m not going to have anything nice enough to wear for the occasion, so I’ll look like a rough, frumpy hobo.
6. I’m afraid that I don’t know the laws well enough and that I’ll accidentally do something that will get me arrested.
7. I’m scared of Indian taxis. I think I’m justified in saying that.
8. I’m scared of people being rude and unfriendly towards me but at the same time I’m scared of people being overly friendly and making me extremely shy.

Believe me the list could go on and on. It’s ridiculous and daft I know.

So, I’ve had a bit of an idea that will help me focus on something else and to relax and enjoy my time there.

I’ve decided to come up with a list of challenges/tasks that I have to try and do whilst I’m in India. I need to tick off as many as possible and take pictures as photo evidence to upload when I get back.

THIS IS WHERE I NEED YOUR HELP!!!

If you have any ideas for challenges and tasks in India, no matter how big or small, then please leave a comment for me. I want to try and make a huge list full of a different variety of things so that I can achieve as much as possible whilst I’m there. I don’t mind if they’re easy, hard or embarrassing, any ideas you can come up with are very, very welcome. I’ll only draw the line at things that would be culturally offensive/could get me arrested but I think that’s fair enough!

We’re going to Agra, Meerut and Delhi. The only things I know are happening for certain while we’re there are we’re going to the Taj Mahal and to the wedding which will last for three days (woo hoo! We should definitely take a leaf out of their book for our own wedding!). If you want to come up with anything specific for where we are visiting then that’s brilliant, but if generic travelling challenges are super too. Even if it’s just tasks for the airport/airplane, basically just suggest anything please!

Please, please, please help me out with this guys? I’ll be forever grateful for your help and you can count this as your good deed for the day!

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Much love xxx

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Baby Steps…TO GLORY!!!!

Hello everybody!!

Right now I’m imagining you all reacting to my return in a similar way to my cat Harry. That is you’re all extremely miffed by my long absence and are now turning your back on me and finding a very sudden and pronounced interest in every other single object in the room, so long as you don’t have to look in my direction.

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I know, I’m so sorry and I’m officially the world’s worst blogger. However, the reason why I’ve not written in so long is because I’ve been up to lots and lots of stuff!

Let me take you back to long long ago to a time known as Saturday 15th of February…

On this day I received a call from my mum telling me that one of my pet cats Charlie was very unwell and that she was extremely worried for him. This in turn made me extremely worried for him. And so I decided that on Tuesday I would drive up to visit home for just over a week. This is a four hour drive which I had never done on my own before which would normally be enough to make me not sleep the night before and to spend the entire day going over and over all the stuff I needed to take with me. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn’t feel any nerves at all. In fact, I was extremely calm about the whole thing. At about 6pm on the tuesday, I packed my bags, kissed Burly goodbye, cranked up the volume on the CD player and set off up the motorway. I was so comfortable driving that I didn’t even feel the need to take a break and so I did the whole drive in one go! BABY STEP NUMBER ONE– I didn’t stress about driving on my own on the motorway for four hours! This is actually a really big deal as I mentioned in a previous post that my anxiety was causing me to have repetitive nightmares about crashing the car, meaning that I was becoming increasing nervous about driving. And I did it all by myself!

so I’d actually made it back home and was feeling extremely pleased with myself but my mum was right, Charlie cat definitely was not very well. Although he seemed hungry and would come for food, he’d refuse to eat it once it was placed in front of him and instead retreated to the nest he had made under my sister’s bed. Charlie usually is always super excited when I come home because I give him the best belly rubs (if I do say so myself!), but this time he just stayed hidden away in his safe place. It’s always a bad sign when cats seek out a dark, quiet place to hide, especially when it’s so against their normal behaviour.

While I was busy worrying about trying to get Charlie to eat, Burly rang up to tell me he might have possibly sprained his wrist during football and that he was in A&E getting it checked out. It transpired that he had actually BROKEN HIS FLIPPING WRIST and needed to have a cast put on. This meant that he could no longer drive, cook, do housework or even bathe. Seriously, I had been gone for less than 24 hours and THIS happens!!

So now I had a dilemma, do I stay with Charlie and try to get him to eat or do I go home to care for my poor, broken Burly?

Obviously a poorly cat will always win so I picked Charlie. Don’t feel sorry for Burly, he knew what he was getting into when we first started dating and he’s had four and a half years to get out of it.

Trying to get Charlie to eat was a task in itself. When we managed to coax him downstairs we literally surrounded him with little dishes of different appetising meals and treats; cat biscuits, cat food in gravy, posh cat food pate, tuna, chicken, even yoghurt which under normal circumstances Charlie would give his right paw for. However, these were obviously not normal circumstances as after one sniff, he turned up his nose and headed back to sanctuary.

'You call this food human?!!?'

‘You call this food human?!!?’

After failing pathetically at creating a sort of cat-tapas restaurant, I decided to try and be productive elsewhere. Burly and I are actually planning on getting married at some vague point next year and after being engaged for a year already we decided it’s finally time to get off our butts and do some organising. First things first -finding a venue. As Burly is Glaswegian, I’m from Stoke and we now both live in Southampton, this is more challenging then it first appears. I’d previously spent a few days going through immense lists of venues in each location and narrowing them down to ones I actually would want see/we could possibly afford. Now I actually had to arrange these visits, which was a whole other issue in itself. I HATE ringing people up as it makes me incredibly anxious. Normally in this situation I’d beg Burly to do all the ringing, even though this would mean he’d have to ring up during his spare time at work. He knows this is an issue for me so he usually doesn’t mind but I know that it’s obviously less than ideal, especially when meanwhile I’m just at home doing nothing. This time I couldn’t call on Burly to help so it was up to me to ring these places on my own. And I did it! BABY STEP NUMBER 2 – I successfully communicated with unfamiliar Glaswegian people over the phone like a boss! And, most miraculously of all, I didn’t stress out about it before hand or berate myself continuously for being hair-curlingly cringe-worthy during the conversation. I just rang up places and spoke to people like a normal person. AND IT FELT FANTASTIC!

After accomplishing this extraordinary feat, I return back to cat coaxing duty. This time I cracked the magic formula by using cat food in gravy, poking it with a fork and making eating noises by smacking my lips. Apparently having anyone else touch his food is NOT OK by Charlie as demonstrated by him jealously tucking into the meal.

After that Charlie picked up loads and I was able to enjoy a few lovey relaxing days back home. I even managed to sneak in cheeky visit to see Nottingham Quidditch Soc which was BRILLIANT! It turned out that one of my most amazing friends (who I’ll call Pony) who I hadn’t seen since August was there for a visit too. CUE DRAMATIC REUNION ON THE QUIDDITCH PITCH!!!!

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After retrieving my bag which I’d cast aside in order to run across the field to hug Pony, it was time for a lovely game of Nottingham rules Quidditch. Aaahhhh, Notts Quidditch, how I’ve desperately missed you! I must say Gryffindor have truly upped their game since I was last there. I mean, it’s not really difficult to imagine when you consider that our old motto was ‘Be less shit’ but there were half-time team talks and everything. We still didn’t win but hey, you can’t expect miracles!

So after my nice week and a bit back home receiving cat cuddles and copious cups of tea, it was time for me to head back south. The drive back was a little bit more stressful as it was quite foggy but I still did it in one and made it back unscathed.

Which is more than I could say for Burly. Upon opening the door I came face to face with the detritus accumulated over a week of him having to survive alone with one arm. And so for the next week I dedicated my time to house work and helping him out (in other words I watched TV all day until about 3:30, at which point I’d rush about doing things so it looked like I’d been busy by the time he got home at 4).

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And then came Thursday the 8th of March. We’d been planning for a while to go up to Glasgow this weekend so that we could be there for Burly’s Nephew’s 3rd birthday and so that we could have a look at the venues I booked like a boss. Now, with Burly being damaged and unable to drive, I was faced with the task of driving from Southampton to Glasgow which is far further then I have ever driven before. Not only that, on the Tuesday before we were meant to leave my car’s exhaust suddenly decided to start blowing, meaning that I would have to do the drive in Burly’s car. AND I DID IT! BABY STEP NUMBER 3! We did split it up by stopping over in stoke on the way there and back, but I didn’t chicken out of driving! Plus the whole time we were up in Scotland I did a lot of driving between Edinburgh and Glasgow and no one died! SUCCESS!!

We came back to Southampton on the 12th after having viewed venues in Glasgow, the Lake District and Stoke. We think we may have a winner, however you’ll have to wait for a later post before we can confirm… (ooooooooh the suspense and drama!!).

Not a whole lot happened after the visit to Glasgow so I’ve spent most of my time until now trying my best to keep the house in order while Burly is out of commission. However, there are definitely a few more significant baby steps that might seem like minor things but they are HUMONGOUS to me!

BABY STEP NUMBER 4! – I spoke to our upstairs neighbour!

Now that might not seem like a major feat to you but let me just put this into perspective. Not so long ago, probably up until the beginning of February, I was so terrified of the neighbours seeing me that I would refuse to go out of the house and would even close the curtains and switch off the lights just to be safe. Even just the postman coming to the door would be enough to panic me and I’d mute the TV just to make sure he didn’t think anyone was in.

So coming back to the present, I was just tidying up the living room when I saw our neighbour go past in her car. I knew that I needed to talk to her to apologise for parking outside our flat as we’d only just been informed that we actually have an allocated space in the car park nearby. And I just stopped what I was doing, walked out the house and did it. Just like that. Like it was no bother at all. Oh. My. Fricking. GOD!!!!

We actually had a lovely conversation and she was super friendly and said it was all fine. Which led me on to my next baby step…

BABY STEP NUMBER 5! – I invited our neighbour to join us for a games night!

I just thought she seemed really nice and so I invited her to our house for board games with a couple of our friends. And she actually came! She seemed to genuinely enjoy herself too which is an added bonus. AND I DIDN’T STRESS OUT! Normally, if we have a party, I completely ruin it for myself by stressing far too much about if everyone has enough food or drink or that I’m making a massive fool of myself. This time I was just super relaxed and went with the flow. And I had a brilliant time! I never knew parties I organised myself could be fun before!

BABY STEP NUMBER 6 – I applied for a job!

This baby step is actually made up of a few baby steps combined. First of all, Burly showed me this job being advertised at a local rehoming centre. Now, it has been a while since I’ve plucked up enough courage to do a proper job application. For a long time I’ve had extremely low confidence and self-esteem. I would see jobs that would interest me but before I could even look at the application I would have talked myself out of it, convinced that I wasn’t good enough, that there was no hope in me getting the job so I might as well just watch some more youtube and forget the whole thing. This time it was different. The minute I read the job description I felt this spark of desire awaken in me. I wanted this job. I actually really wanted this job.

And so on Sunday I was just settling down to fill out my application when Burly suggested that we go to the shelter to see what it was like and, if I felt up to it, possibly introduce myself and ask a few questions about the job. AND I SAID OK! Just like that! I didn’t start panicking, I didn’t start crying. I didn’t convince myself that I’m too pathetic to ever have a job, that I’m so worthless that I don’t deserve happiness. I just said ‘Ok’ and went and got ready.

I drove us there and we headed in to have a nosey about. I fell in love straight away. The shelter looked incredible and there were loads of families milling about considering adopting pets. It just looked like such a lovely place for the animals to stay whilst they waited to find new homes. We went down to the cattery, where the position I’m applying for would be based, and while we were there Burly spotted a worker and gently coaxed me into talking to her. She only turned out to be the flipping cattery manager, as in the person who would be my boss if I got the job! And she was lovely! I explained that I was interested in the job, asked about what kinds of things they were looking for in an applicant and then had a joke about my failed cat-tapas industry.

As soon as I got home on Sunday, I started straight back to my application. I worked solidly on it for the rest of the day and for the whole of Monday. I recruited several friends to read it through and give me advice. I was going to make the best goddamned job application that had ever existed in the history of the earth! I wanted this job so badly I could taste it.

Today I drove to the centre to drop my application off in person. I wore my Gryffindor top for luck and told the lady at the reception to thank the cattery manager for answering my questions and to mention me by name.

I can’t believe how much my outlook on life has changed in just a few months. If I’m 100% honest with you, I was ready to give up on me and just end it all in January. I reached my lowest point and I could see no possible way of me ever feeling ‘normal’ or happy. But just look at me now!!! I’ve got my drive and focus back! I’m arranging parties, offering to meet up with friends for a drink, speaking to strangers over the phone, handing in job applications! And all of this just feels normal! It just feels right, like it should be happening, and that’s what I’ve craved for such a long time. I never wanted anything extraordinary, I didn’t need a parade and fireworks, I just wanted to feel like I was living a life. And now I am!

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I have absolutely no idea what has come over me recently but I flipping LOVE this new Natalie and I want her to stay!

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To sleep, perchance to dream…

Hello again everybody!

Today I thought I’d take a bit of a break from ‘Things I wish I’d Never Done’ and go back onto the mental health side of things to talk a little about an issue that’s been causing me a fair amount of trouble recently. Scumbag brain has been up to his usual tricks and sleep (or the lack of) has become a real problem for me.

Depression/anxiety and sleeping problems usually go hand in hand and either one can sometimes become the cause of the other developing. For me, my sleeping problems began just after my Dad died as a result of my anxiety over death. For months on end, after I turned off the lights and lay in bed, the first thought that would come into my mind was that I was going to die and there was nothing I could do about it. I would freeze in terror, just staring wide-eyed at my bedroom wall for hours. Sometimes I’d cry and in doing so I’d tire myself out enough to sleep. It’s no surprise that I also had a lot of nightmares, however it was also around this time that I started to experience night terrors and sleep paralysis. I read up on some information on this so here’s a brief explanation about what each of those things mean.

Nightmares are frightening or upsetting dreams that happen during the REM stage of sleep, when normal dreams would occur. They can disrupt your sleep by making you wake up in a state of distress. An example of one of my nightmares; being hunted by man-eating panthers around my house.

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Night terrors are dreams that occur during the deeper part of your sleep and are much more vivid and scary than nightmares. They have a much more physical effect on the body causing an increase in breathing, increased heart rate and sweating. The person can thrash about, scream or cry out in their sleep. An example of one of my night terrors; in my night terror I hugged my sister so hard I snapped her neck and killed her, causing me to bolt upright in my bed screaming out her name, something she didn’t enjoy as we were sharing a bedroom at that point.

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Sleep paralysis is thought to happen due to disrupted REM sleep and can happen either while you are falling asleep or waking up.  It occurs as a result of you still being awake while your muscles are under the control of hormones designed to stop you moving about during REM sleep. Quite often I experience sleep paralysis on nights when I have night terrors, mostly when I’m trying to wake up. I’ll find that I can open my eyes but I can’t move any of my body and I can still hear what’s happening in my dream. If I don’t manage to move my muscles I can slip back into the night terror. An example of some of my sleep paralysis; being unable to wake up from a dream for a very long time which made me become increasingly more and more panicked until I was convinced if I didn’t wake up I would die.

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 More recently I’ve started to experience something which is apparently called ‘Exploding head syndrome’.  Not quite as fun as it sound. Exploding head syndrome again usually occurs before I have a night terror. As I’m starting to fall asleep I’ll suddenly begin to hear agonisingly loud noises and feel my body tense up as if I’m entering sleep paralysis. One of the worst ones I ever had was like the sound of a chair being dragged across a wooden floor for ages. At the time it really feels as though it’s causing excruciating pain but if I manage to wake myself up again it completely disappears.

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My issues with sleep have always become worse when my anxiety or depression is particularly bad, like when I’ve had exams or been very upset over something. Or, because I’m such a special case, after your well-meaning boyfriend buys you a zombie survival experience for Christmas where you have to run away from people pretending to be zombies trying to eat you.

Over the past several months though my sleeping problems have become more and more extreme. It’s gotten to the point where I’m having very bad nightmares every night with the odd night terror thrown in once in a while. This really affects my sleeping pattern as I find I can’t fall asleep very easily because I’m on edge about what will happen. When I have nightmares I often wake up feeling extremely upset about what I dreamed and completely unrested. I’ll be extremely tired and down during the day as a result but when it comes to bed time, yet again I have trouble sleeping.

I’m sure you all can relate to feeling tired, everyone knows that horrible sicky feeling when you’ve had to get up early after being up too late the night before. But this has been happening to me for AGES now and it’s really beginning to have a severe impact on my mental health. Every night I have nightmares that replay over and over again all the horrible experiences I had during my Dad’s ill health and death. I’m also confronted with my own fear of failure as I relive leaving vet school and the heart ache it caused me. Every single night my brain forces me to see these things and every morning I begin the day already defeated as I wake up crying or panicking.

The thing is recently, by trying to do something positive for my depression, I’ve actually made my nightmares worse. Just before Christmas, I decided to go to the doctor to discuss going on to medication. The drug he chose for me was Citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) which is good for helping both depression and anxiety. At the time the doctor was fully aware that I struggle with sleep and he did fore warn me that this particular drug can cause vivid dreams. However he decided that the possible benefits outweighed the possible negatives so we went ahead with it.

Unfortunately, I did begin to experience more vivid dreams. However in my case it was more vivid nightmares. Usually when you wake from a dream it seems to have happened in a rapid confusion of colours and events but it slips away a little bit more every time you try to think about it until it’s impossible to recall. Now, nicely drugged up on my Citalopram, I’m treated to an all-night blockbuster nightmare marathon in high definition which I can remember perfectly, to the last detail of the exact wording of an imagined conversation I had with a fictional creation. The realness of my dreams is so much so that I sometimes find it hard to differentiate between what is real and what’s just imagination. My reoccurring vivid dreams of the brakes failing in my car and causing it to spin out of control are so real that I’m becoming scared to drive. Recently Burly bought me my favourite mushroom soup from Tesco as a treat (he really hates mushrooms so it was a big gesture of love from him). Then one night I had a dream that my emaciated, skeletal, deathly ill dad was begging me for something to eat. I gave him the mushroom soup and he was so grateful for it as he managed to eat a couple of spoonsful. I woke up the next morning, went to the fridge for breakfast, saw the soup still sitting there and burst into tears. I hadn’t given it to my dad, I hadn’t been able to offer him comfort. The soup is still there now getting increasingly mouldy as I can’t touch it without feeling sad and Burly can’t touch it without feeling sick.

You wouldn’t believe how severely the lack of good quality sleep over a prolonged period of time can affect you. It’s not just that though, it’s that every night the sleep I have is like a kind of torture. I liken it to a really bad break up. You’re trying to get over your ex and get on with your life, but everywhere you look you see your ex with their new partner. It wrenches your heart and sets you right back to square one living in your onesie, singing ‘All by myself’ into a tub of Ben and Jerry’s.  I’m trying so desperately to move on with my life and leave my memories in the past, but every night I’m forced to relive the trauma of my Dad’s death and the unhappiness of vet school. My stupid brain waits until I’m asleep and vulnerable, then it starts the same old slide show of misery. How am I supposed to escape from my own head?

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So right about now I’m feeling that I’m long overdue a decent night’s sleep. So I went to the Mind website to see what they recommend. I thought going to a mental health charity page would be a bit more specific for helping with my sleeping problems because they are linked to my depression and anxiety. They have some brilliant information about it all and I found a list of suggestions to help have a peaceful night.

1. Establish a routine.

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Yeah, I’m pretty poor at this but only because my sleep is so broken. I’m so tired at night but sometimes I can’t get to sleep until four or five am and then after that I don’t much fancy getting up at half past six with Burly. So then I sleep in till about ten and it starts all over again. Burly and I have started to try to have a little bit of a bed time routine with a cup of sleepy time tea before bed but I know we need to start establishing an actual time to be in bed before. And I need to really give myself a kick up the bum and get out of bed with Burly in the morning.

2. Make sure where you sleep is comfortable.
THIS. THIS RIGHT HERE. Burly’s bed has been the bane of my life for a couple of years now. The mattress is extremely thin, so much so that it can fold in half (Burly’s excuse, “I couldn’t have fitted it in my car otherwise!”) and the slats underneath the mattress aren’t fixed properly so often they’ll slide apart and I end up sinking down into the gap between with the slats digging into my back. It’s only slightly more cushioned than the floor so my hips ache when I lie on my side or back from it being so firm against me. I really don’t look forward to getting into the bed so I don’t give myself time to relax before the lights go out. I’ve spoken to Burly about this and he agrees that we should do something to help me out so I can sleep better. So hopefully soon I’ll be sleeping on something a lot softer which will help me drift off at night 🙂

3. Relax before going to bed.
So as I say, Burly and I have started to try and relax a bit with some calming tea but I really think we need to do more. Apparently it’s best to stop looking at lit screens such as TVs, laptops, tablets and phones for an hour before you try to sleep as these stimulate your brain and so make it harder to switch off.  The Mind website recommends baths or doing something calming and creative before bed so I might invest in a dot-to-dot…

4. Avoid doing stimulating activities in the bedroom. 

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No but I know what they mean, like doing work or watching TV in there because then you don’t associate it as a relaxing room. I am very bad for watching YouTube videos in bed (I’m addicted to pewdiepie!) but I’m going to try and limit myself a lot more and move to the living room if I do want to watch videos.

5. Don’t force yourself to sleep if you can’t.  
They are very right about this point. The times when I feel at my absolute worst is when I’ve been lying in the dark just staring at the ceiling for ages, sometimes hours, while Burly is snuggled up snoring away blissfully beside me.

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I get so frustrated and agitated by it that I sometimes start crying from anger because all I want is to sleep! But obviously none of this is very good for relaxing and having pleasant dreams. I’m going to try to get up and do something to help tire me out when this happens in future and hopefully I’ll be able to stop myself from getting wound up.

6. Catch up on missed sleep.
I’m not too sure about this step because I don’t want to end up sleeping too much during the day so I can’t sleep at night. I trust Mind though so I’ll remember it in future just in case.

7. Diet and physical exercise.
I know that exercise is meant to be a brilliant way to help combat depression but as a depressive it can sometimes be extremely hard to find the motivation to care enough to do anything. My anxiety also hinders me from going outside sometimes. I have been a lot better recently and even plucked up the bravery to drive out to some animal shelters last week. I also found a really nice picturesque park very close by to my house at the weekend so I’m going to push myself to pop out there from time to time for a little walk. I do think that this is a really good sign that my citalopram is beginning to work in the way it’s supposed to so that’s a really positive sign!

8. Regulate light exposure.
As it explains on the Mind website, exposing yourself to natural light during the day is helpful for making you sleepy at night when it gets darker. It also recommends not having too many bright lights on in the house in the evening to help you wind down. See I know a little bit about this because there’s a hormone called melatonin that controls your sleeping cycle which is affected by light levels. Not getting enough daylight or having lots of lights on late into the night interferes with the natural levels of melatonin and so effects your sleep pattern. So again getting out of the house and exposing myself to some sun light will be good for me.

9. Keep a sleep diary.
Keeping a diary would help to identify nights where I struggle to sleep and might help me figure out why. I did at one point start keeping a diary of my nightmares to help me assess how many I was having but it was just pages full of varying kinds of zombie apocalypses.

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10. Try to resolve stresses and problems.
Oh if only it were that easy! However, I am going to (hopefully) be starting some therapy soon so I’m optimistic that as it progresses it’ll help me to deal with my demons and sleep might start to come more easily.

11. Try herbal remedies.
One of my friends suggested spraying lavender scent on my pillow which actually sounds like a lovely idea that I’m more than happy to try, Burly will just have to put up with smelling flowery!

12. Recognise and challenge unhelpful thought patterns about sleep.

Image from the Mind.org website

Image from the Mind.org website

This is a bit like cognitive behavioural therapy where you learn to break out of a vicious circle of bad thoughts by changing your approach. So instead of thinking ‘I’m afraid to sleep because I might have a nightmare’ instead you think ‘I’m looking forward to sleep because it gives me a chance to relax’. That breaks the circle and so it’s more likely that you’ll have a positive outcome. Much easier said than done, I know from experience, however I also know it does work.

So yeah, I’m going to give all of these steps a go. I’ll give you an update to say how it’s going a bit further down the line and say what steps I found particularly useful in case you find yourself in a similar situation to me. I am SO READY for a good night’s sleep so fingers crossed I’ll soon be dreaming sweet dreams. Preferably that include Burly. And Simon Neil. Smothered in chocolate.

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Nice Nominations

Hello again!

Here is a video of me completing my Nice Nomination. Nice Nomination is where you are nominated to do something nice, film yourself doing it and then nominate three more people to do good too.

As it was Valentine’s Day when I did my good deed, I decided to spread the love to those who need it most.

To watch my video, please click HERE!!

If you’re interested in Nice Nomination and want to get involved, here is a link to their facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/nicenomination24hours?hc_location=stream

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Things I wish I’d never done part 3 – Beauty and the Bullies

Hello again and welcome back to another trip down my rather distorted and warped memory lane. If you haven’t already, please feel free to read parts 1 and 2 so you can get your money’s worth snickering at my silliness.

I’m terribly sorry old beans, but I’m afraid this post will only be containing one regret. This is because I’m trying to be a grown up and do grown up things like actually washing the cutlery instead of just buying more and going to bed at a decent hour. Hey, if it were up to me I’d be up every night blogging and playing minecraft until dawn, but unfortunately I feel the awful weight of ‘responsibility’ weighing down on my shoulders. Being an adult sucks.

As ever though, the aim of these posts is to help me remember that I’m only human and that we all make mistakes. So, if at any point you find yourself thinking ‘oh yeah, that happened to me too!’ or ‘thank God there’s someone as daft as me out there’ then please leave me a comment to let me know I’m not alone. ONE DAY US DAFTIES WILL UNITE AND THE WORLD SHALL BE OURS!!!

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Until then though, let’s continue with snippets from my past.

Number 5- Listened to bullies

Now I’m sure that I’m not unique in feeling this and that many many other people also wish the same thing. In my primary school I was unlucky enough to be acquainted with a certain two boys. After coming home from school on many an occasion with tears in my eyes thanks to them, my mum helpfully christened them Ferret-face and Jug-ears.

Now for some reason, beyond my comprehension, Ferret-face and Jug-ears seemed to have a fixation on humiliating me on pretty much a daily basis. Whenever I was happy just getting on with my life, along they’d come and bring me down again.

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 Their favourite activity concerning me was to call me fat. Fat fat fatty fat fat fat fat. Day in, day out. Fat fat fat fat fat fat fat. And why did they do this? I’m really not sure. The more pragmatic part of me thinks that the only reason that people bully others is because they’re unhappy in themselves. By making other people feel weaker and worthless they make themselves feel stronger so that they can deal with what makes them unhappy.  Mostly though I think it’s because they were a pair of colossal douchebags.

I’ve never really been the kind of person to dwell on looks. I still don’t understand why people are so obsessed with image. Why the hell did two six to ten year old boys care so much about my size? It just seems completely ridiculous. But what was more stupid was that I listened to them. As a little girl, before I was even in double digits, I began to believe that I was fat. And because I was fat I was somehow less than everyone else. Because I was fat I didn’t deserve sympathy when they bullied me because they were just pointing out the obvious. Before I was even in double digits I began to look at the clothes I wore and plan the best ways to cover myself up. I even started going to weight watchers with my mum when I was nine.

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The thing is, as most people who have been bullied at a young age will know, it stays with you. So even though this only really happened in my primary school, I’ve believed that I was fat ever since. There’s never really been a point in my life when I’ve felt like my body was acceptable. My bum was always too big, my belly to wibbly, my face too pudgy. And for some reason that made me less of a person. So I focused on other things to make up for my short comings, like caring for my friends before myself, being the funny one and making everyone laugh. I’d deliberately pull funny faces in photos, that way I couldn’t be disappointed if I looked stupid.

I’ll always remember one fateful bike ride with one of my german aunties. She is more than a little eccentric and so my sister and I would take turns for who was riding behind her in her slip stream of verbal diarrhoea. At one point during my time in the line of fire, my loving aunty commented ‘You’re pretty, but you’ll never be as pretty as your sister’.

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And so, here I am in my mid-twenties and it suddenly dawned on me. Why on earth do I still care?? I’m a good person, I have friends, a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend and two gorgeous piggies and I managed to get all this despite my size. Ha, ‘despite my size’, as if it was ever really an obstacle! I look back at picture of me in high school when I thought I was ugly and I was beautiful! I had lovely skin, my hair was pretty, I had absolutely no reason to believe the haters.

Pretty past Natalie is pretty :)

Pretty past Natalie is pretty 🙂

And you know something, I’m still beautiful now, I always have been. What those stupid bullies said never mattered, they were losers. And I no longer care what anybody says to me. I am who I am and what I am is a better than average human being. And I’m more than happy with that. My looks and size have absolutely zero influence on the more important things in my life and I refuse to let other people’s shallow obsessions affect me any more.

It maybe that right now all this love for mankind and positive mental image is inspiring you to burst spontaneously into song. You could be tempted to belt out ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt or ‘Beautiful’ by Christina Aguilera. Possibly even ‘Just the way you are’ by Bruno Mars or (god forbid) ‘What makes you beautiful’ by One Direction. Hey, whatever floats your boat! Sing it loud and sing it proud because guess what?

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, UNIQUE AND THERE WILL NEVER EVER BE ANOTHER PERSON AS SPECIAL AND WONDERFUL AS YOU!

Haters gonna hate, skaters gonna skate. It doesn’t matter what other people say, you are beautiful and you matter.

moral of the story : no matter what people say to you, always remember…

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Things I wish I’d never done Part 2 – Watery Regrets

Hello, and welcome back to another edition of ‘Things I wish I’d never done’ (aka. Why am I such an idiot?). Sorry that it’s been a while since I last wrote anything but an impromptu trip back home and a sudden influx of haggis meant I’ve been a little bit busy recently. Read into that what you will.

So without further ado, let’s get on with the show!

Number 3. ‘Said no to waterworld with Dad’

Here is the first of the guilt filled regrets that I have.  It’s such a silly thing and at the time I had no idea of what was going to happen in the future but I’m still filled with sadness every time I think of this.

I was about thirteen when I started my periods. HA! SURPRISE GROSS OUT!

surprise
Although you may be thinking TMI, it’s actually very important.

During school quite unsurprisingly my least favourite subject was P.E. Of all the sports I was forced to endure, swimming lessons were absolute hell. I hated having to parade about in a swimming costume in front of my class, hated having to wear a horrible talcy swimming cap over my hair, hated having ice cold wet hair for the rest of the day, especially in winter. I hated being forced to swim repetitively up and down and up and down and never ever being fast enough for the teacher. Most of all I hated getting changed before and after. There was just one big communal room with benches and hooks down the sides and the middle. There was no way in hell I was flashing any more of my body than I had to so changing was always performed awkwardly underneath a towel to avoid looking like this…

'Hello ladies!'

‘Hello ladies!’

Also, for some sick, satanic reason, the P.E. teachers would time how long we took to get dressed after swimming and if you were too slow you got detention. A changing detention. Where for half of lunch time you were made to repeatedly get changed and unchanged out of your P.E. kit. As I was too busy attempting to construct a towel tent to protect my dignity it was no surprise that I was always one of the last to leave. After receiving three changing detentions I decided that I’d had my fill so one time I decided to skip putting my tights on so I could get out in time. I succeeded, however, on the way to my next lesson, I was stopped by a female teacher who berated me for my hideous bare-legs saying how shameful and disgusting it was. CURSE YOU SWIMMING!!!! YOU MANAGE TO GET ME IN TROUBLE EVEN AFTER I’VE LEFT THE POOL!

Then, about half way through my first year of high school, something miraculous happened. My body, obviously responding to my pitiful swimming situation, gave me a gift. A cast iron, infallible excuse allowing me the enjoyment of one swimming free week a month. For that one week I was untouchable. With a small written letter from my Mum I was free and there was nothing the evil P.E. teachers could do about it!!!

dexter's lab

For months I enjoyed my little ‘get out of jail free card’ with absolutely zero regrets. I knew that there was always the option of tampons (and if you’re grossed out by that word then you live a sheltered life) but as long as I was avoiding swimming, no one was going to make me use them.

One weekend I was just bumming about in my room not doing much when my Dad came up and asked if I wanted to go to waterworld, just me and him. Waterworld is a big swimming complex with tons of amazing slides, heated pools and (best of all) a rapids ride. And at that point in my life it was one of my most absolute favourite places in the world, however it was usually only ever reserved for very special occasions like birthdays as it was actually quite expensive to go. For my Dad to offer to take me just for fun on a weekend was amazing!

As quickly as I became excited I suddenly realised my dilemma. I had just started my period and I had swimming later on in the week. If I went swimming with dad then I’d no longer be able to use it as an excuse to get out of swimming at school. So I told my dad that I couldn’t go. He looked really sheepish for a second then timidly asked if I could just use something which meant I could go swimming. I knew that he was trying to pluck up the courage to suggest tampons. I actually had no problem with tampons, I just pretended I did so that I wouldn’t need to do swimming lessons. I thought about it for a few seconds but in the end my selfish desire to keep ducking swimming lessons won out and I told my dad no. He looked extremely let down but accepted it and went back downstairs.

At that point in my life I didn’t know that my time with my Dad was extremely limited and a few years later he died.

I was thirteen when I said no to my Dad that day. Now I’m twenty-four and I feel such sadness, guilt and regret every time I think about it. I was always closer to my Mum than my Dad growing up and now, looking back with age and hindsight, I realise my dad wanted to spend time together with me to try and help our relationship. I think of how my Dad must have picked waterworld because he knew I loved it, how he tried to pluck up the courage to get past male embarrassment by suggesting tampons and his disappointment when I still said no. I think of all the times since his death when I’d have done anything just to see his face again, to hug him. I think about the fun memories I could have created with my Dad that day, the time we could have spent as Father and Daughter and I mourn that it never happened.

I wish that I’d never said no to waterworld with my dad for the sake of getting out of swimming lessons for just a bit longer and at the expense of that little bit of extra time I could have had him in my life. 

Moral of the story: Never ever take your loved ones for granted. An old cliché but it’s true.

Number 4. Opened clam

This memory makes me feel like a terrible terrible human being because it involves an animal. True, it was just a clam but in a way that makes it so much worse because it couldn’t run away…

Here’s what happened. I was on holiday in florida with my family and I think I was about ten at the time. We’d just spent a week at Disney world and were now having a parent friendly second week at Tampa bay on the beach. I can’t actually remember much of this second week, I think it mostly consisted of me making my own entertainment in the pool and on the beach while my parents doused themselves in alcohol to drown out the haunting memory of ‘It’s a small world after all’.

make it stop

I do however have one particular memory that stands out.

One of my favourite things to do during this second week was to wait for sunset on the beach. At this point the tide would begin to recede and as it swept out, tiny clams would dance out from under the sand and follow the water. They were absolutely beautiful in different shades of yellow, purples and pinks and I was fascinated by them. Every day I’d get my bucket, fill it with sand and water and collect those that I thought were extra special before rushing back to my parents to show them my pretties. Hiccoughing and slurring they would congratulate me on my excellent clam collecting skills and I merrily scurry back down to the shore and set my pretties free.

fly my pretties

One day during my usual collection I came across a particularly colourful clam scuttling across the sand. I saw that it moved by opening and closing rapidly and my curiosity was tickled. I knew that my clams were beautiful on the outside, but what actually dwelled on the inside of that gorgeous shell? I picked up the clam and examined it for an opening. I realised after a few tries that it was shut up tight and that I would need something more ‘robust’ to open it up. I found a flat edged pebble and pressed it into the edge of the shell. A tiny gap appeared around the outside.  Excited at the thought of what I was about to discover, I hooked my finger under the opposite edge and pulled.

It was all over in a few gore filled moments. As I pulled with my finger, the shell’s hinge finally gave way and swung wide open. the creature inside was definitely not as wondrous as the outside led me to believe and looked more like an anaemic, deformed sluggy-tongue. It thrashed wildly around from side to side, writhing in agony. Then the poor, pathetic creature sunk down into its shell and lay still.

My ten year old self sat frozen, staring in terror at what had just occurred in my hands.

Of course I had no clue as to what would happen when I opened the clam, I just thought that I could take a quick peek, say hello then pop it back in the sea. I had no idea that opening the shell was going to kill it! I was shocked and horrified at what I’d just done. I was a murderer.

opposite

(picture by Allie Brosh)

I cast my eye about to see if anyone was near enough to witness my crime. No one, I was alone in my own little crime scene. I felt so horribly guilty, I would never have intentionally hurt the clam. I’m the kind of person who refuses to squish spiders or daddy-long-legs even though they both terrify me. this poor little clam had been industriously working its way back home into the sea before I snatched it up and brutally ripped it apart.

Silently, I took up the clam’s broken and battered body and walked solemnly towards the surf. When I reached the water, I bent down and let the sea gently carry the ex-clam to its watery grave.

Good night sweet Prince…

Moral of the story: curiosity killed the clam.

shellder-o

R.I.P Shellder

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Things I wish I’d never done Part 1 – Commando Bikes!

Happy (belated) New Year everyone! Now is the time of year for flimsy resolutions and half-arsed promises to yourself and in the spirit of this I’ve come up with a bit of an idea.

Brace yourselves…

Winter is com… no, behave!

‘Things I wish I’d never done.’

Ok, I know the surprise was given away in the title, but here’s my thinking. Once again I’m being thwarted by my greatest nemesis – my scumbag brain. Quite often, apparently for no reason other than to torment me, scumbag brain decides to randomly bring up moments from my past. These can be embarrassing, guilt ridden or just plain stupid situations that if I had the choice I would never think of again. However, scumbag brain apparently thinks it’s hilarious fun to play these moments over and over and over and over AND OVER again from every conceivable angle right up until I’m seriously tempted to silence scumbag brain with a hammer. The thing is, most of these moments are the most tiny, insignificant occurrences, some of which happened way over a decade ago, but scumbag brain just doesn’t want to let go!

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So here is my idea. Maybe by writing about these moments and sharing on my blog, I can finally take away scumbag brain’s ammunition and get them out of my head. Ideally some of you will respond with similar scenarios that happened to you and then I’ll feel like less like a weirdo. No pressure guys, but you know what they say, ‘sharing is caring’ 😉

I’ve written down all of the instances I can think of (though I’m sure scumbag brain will come up with a few more later) onto small pieces of paper. I’ve mixed these all in a hat, which appropriately looks like a knitted rabbit version of grumpy cat, and I will draw them out on a regular basis, maybe once a week. Depending on how much I have to write about each of the situations I’ll either draw one or two at a time. And you can all have a good time laughing or sympathising with me while I hopefully help myself let go of these memories.

ok, so here it goes. Draw number one is…

Gone ‘commando’ under my dress to friend’s party

Wow.

I’d like to point out that this is NOT, I repeat NOT, something I do on a regular basis. In fact, this memory is why this was the first and only time I ever went out pantless in a dress in public.

The story goes something like this.

I was about 14. I’d very recently gone on a shopping trip with my mum when I happened to fall in love with the most beautiful bright red halter-neck dress. It was a little bit 50’s style with a gorgeous shirt collar type neckline, a matching broad waistline belt and an A-line skirt. I always take forever when trying on clothes in dressing rooms so I just slipped it on over my jeans to save time. I didn’t really wear many dresses when I was younger because I was very self-conscious but this dress was just the right amount of feminine and fitted my body perfectly. Plus, it was just so purdy!! I was so thrilled when my mum bought it for me and resolved to wear it to my friend’s party the following week.

So the night of the party came and I excitedly slipped on my dress. I was admiring myself in the mirror when I noticed my very obvious and very massive panty line. I have never ever in my life ever worn a thong, having always picked the comfort of massive granny pant briefs over style.

bridget jones pants

No matter how much I tucked and tugged, wiggled and jiggled, there was no hiding the humungous trenches caused by my giant knickers. I went to mum for help.  She looked at me and asked what it looked like without pants. So I took my pants off and sure enough, the trenches smoothed out and I once again could pass for nearing elegant. Mum reassured me that it looked miles better and no one would ever know my cheeky secret.

Yes that’s right, my mum actively promoted me to leave the house pantless.

I turned up at the party feeling like Julia Roberts in her red dress in Pretty Woman and received many lovely compliments about my outfit.

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I was so unused to people giving me compliments for my looks and I was thrilled to be receiving such attention. Even though to begin with I was painfully aware of my secret, as the evening wore I enjoyed myself so much that I completely forgot about my naked bottom.

After stuffing our faces with food we decided to get up and dance to the music. I was having a blast! I was so happy that I’d worn my dress and enjoyed swishing my skirt about as I boogied. Little did I know that apparently the swishing of my skirt was so tantalising and entrancing it could impulse my friends to do crazy things.

Before I knew what was happening, my friends had grabbed the bottom of my dress and flipped it up over the top of my head. And I’m not talking about the back of my dress so everyone could see my bum, I’m talking about the front. About my *ahem* lady area. I quickly yanked my dress back down, laughing nervously and trying to pretend nothing was out of the ordinary. My friends were understandably shocked, did they really just see what they thought they saw? Apparently the uncertainty and curiosity was too great as moments later I once again found my dress flipped up over my face so my friends could get a better look.  So that was TWICE now, TWICE  in about five minutes that I had had my lady area exposed to the world. Once again I yanked it back down as quick as I could, but this time I could tell by the cheeky grins on their faces that they had seen the truth. My secret was out and I was mortified. Now I really did feel like a movie star, but not like Julia Roberts, more like Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch, only a million times less sexy.

Annex - Monroe, Marilyn (Seven Year Itch, The)_15

I tried to carry on like I wasn’t bothered but I was horrified. I’m extremely self-conscious about my body and I couldn’t believe I’d just flashed my lady area to my friends twice in one night!

I never wore that dress again. But I did wear underwear from then on.

Moral of the story: If your mum ever tells you no one will ever know you’re not wearing any pants, she’s a filthy, filthy liar!!

Time for another draw! And draw number two is…

‘Trusted sister no.3 – Bike’

I think you can guess from the title of this one that my sister comes up more than a few times in this list.

Like many people in life, I have a lovely older sister who I adored and followed around like a puppy as a child. I thought she was the coolest, most wise person I’d ever known and I trusted everything she said implicitly.

One day when I was about six, my Aunty was baby-sitting us and decided to treat us to some fresh air at the park. We hopped on our bikes and peddled on our way. I was still on stabilisers at this point and so we had to take our time getting to the park.

Once we got there, our long suffering Aunty decided that she needed a rest and so set herself down on a bench to observe us at play. The park was situated at the base of two hills, with a path running to it down from the entrance at the top of one of the hills. My sister, who was three years older and so had a big girl’s bike, discovered that it was a lot of fun to cycle as fast as you could down the first hill, gathering as much speed for your bike as possible to propel you unaided up the second hill.

I watched her do this a few times and it did indeed seem like a lot of fun. With big innocent eyes, I examined her every move with wonder and awe.

bike part 1
After a bit, my sister stopped at the top of the second hill and shouted over to me,

‘You should do it Natalie, it’s so much fun!!’

I looked down the slope of the hill. It really was quite steep and I wasn’t sure. She must have seen me hesitate and so shouted over again,

‘Go on do it! It’s great!’

She sounded so confident that I believed without a doubt that this was going to be the best experience of my young life. I jumped on my bike and pushed off.

bike part 2

It was incredible! The wind rushing through my hair, the feeling of gathering speed while all the time my little legs peddled manically, pushing me faster and faster.

Then it happened.

My pathetic rickety stabilisers couldn’t take any more and gave out. My bike hurtled out of control, swerving left and right until finally SMASH!

bike part 3

I ended up head first in a bin, my little legs thrashing about in the air.

My Aunty came sprinting down the hill to rescue me while my sister cackled hysterically above. When I was finally pulled from the bin it turned out that I’d received a massive cut down my face. We had been at the park for about 10 minutes total and my sister had already managed to maim me.

Since then I’ve never really trusted bikes.

Moral of the story: Sometimes you need a big girl’s bike to get a job done properly.

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