Monday, 27 February 2017

A Day Trip to the Big City

Now I've moved away from London, it has once more become a place for visits and day trips.

I'm no longer doing a daily Central Line commute into Oxford Circus, and I no longer pop to Westfield Stratford mutiple times per week.

Last month, my dad and I hopped on the train for my first visit back to the city since moving.

I had mixed feelings of excitement and nerves - my reasons for leaving were tangled up with anxiety, so of course when I did leave, I was at the height of that.

Fast forward a little and I'm in a different place, and the main nerves were attached to the train journey - another thing to add to the list of things I panic about (but am working through).

I had booked us tickets to Rent the musical at the St James Theatre for my dad's birthday months earlier, and the day finally rolled round.

My nerves in the week leading up to the train ride were high, but once we were on it and moving, deep breaths and podcasts kept me sane. It still amazes me how quick and easy it is to get into London from our local area and it was such a smooth ride.

When we got to Euston, the skies were blue and we decided to take the scenic route: walking.

When you're living in London it's so easy to just hop on and off the tube thinking nothing of it, but everywhere is so walkable and you appreciate the city in a new way.

In the interest of full disclosure, part of the reason we walked was I was too nervous to get on the tube, but that doesn't take away from the fact it was a lovely walk, and we had plenty of time!

The air was cold and crisp but the sun was bright; it was perfect weather to explore the city. We walked from Euston through to Oxord Street, down Regent Street and along to Trafalgar Square. From there, we went through Westminster, before finally emerging at our destination: Victoria.

Pizza Express was calling our name - it's been a firm favourite with our family for years. Re-energised by dough balls, garlic bread, pizza and chocolate fudge cake, we continued on to the theatre.

I've written up a full review of Rent already, which you can read here, but I can summarise it by saying it was easily one of the best things I've ever seen. Anyone who knows me knows that's a big statement to make!

After that, an Uber and a coffee saw us back onto the train, and off home we went.

Day out: success.

First trip back to London: success.

First long train ride in a period of time: success x 2.

I guess I'm starting to teach this anxiety it can't have full control of my life any more...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Time to Talk Day, 2017

Today is #TimetoTalk day.

Talking about mental health is so, so important to me and has been one of the most important parts, I believe, in my journey.

I wanted to take today as an opportunity to share a potted history of what's been going on, where I'm at and why talking means everything.

In my final year of university, I knew I wasn't ok. Realistically, it had been going on longer than that, but at that point, I started to struggle to a point it was affecting my life.

Everything scared me.

Everything was too much.

That was a few years ago.

The last few years have been a rollercoaster, to say the least. I've been through really rocky patches, and really positive patches, but throughout that the shadow of anxiety has remained.

For most of this time, I've been able to function, to work, to see friends.

When people would hear I had anxiety they'd say 'You? But you've always been so confident!'

I was just really, really good at pretending I was ok.

I put on a mask every day and got through it. Some days I felt great, then there were periods where even getting into a car, stepping onto a train, or eating a meal weren't feasible options.

In June of last year, I crashed.

My body couldn't take any more pretending.

I had been working on the little surface issues but not on the deep fears at the root of them all. I had been putting little plasters over huge wounds.

I wasn't eating properly, sleeping properly, thinking properly or functioning properly, and realistically I hadn't been for a long time.

That wake up call in the summer has led to some big changes.

I finally found the right counsellor, and he helped me connect the dots I myself couldn't see.

He helped to equip me with new words to explain how I was feeling, and encouraged me to make progress.

In October, an incident happened to me outside work which sent everything backwards all over again.

Even walking down the street was suddenly terrifying.

And I began the slow climb back up again, continuing to work hard in my counselling sessions and beginning to do the real work. The work on the deep, dark fears that have been holding me back for so long.

And now?

I'm doing ok. Not great, yet, but I'm working on it.

I'm facing up to huge fears and huge challenges.

I'm going through a bit of a 'lifestyle overhaul'. New surroundings, new home, new hobbies. I'm surrounding myself with the people who fill me with hope and happiness and who support me relentlessly.

Why talk?

Talking is everything.

I'm incredibly open about what I've been going through because it's absolutely vital that these conversations happen.

A few years ago, I really knew nothing about anxiety. I didn't know that's what I was feeling, or how to get help.

I let it get to the point where I was struggling with generalised anxiety, health anxiety, social anxiety, depression, phobias... you could throw all sorts of labels at it. I wasn't eating properly. I wasn't sleeping.

It went way too far, and if me being open about it can help one single person look for help sooner, or realise what they're feeling isn't normal, that's all I could ever ask for.

I don't want to see anyone feel the way I felt during that 'crash' in June.

I don't want anyone to go through years or fighting with their own brain, being scared of everything, and thinking they're not good enough.

If you're struggling with your mental health, you have an illness and there is support out there.

You can learn to cope, and you can learn to thrive.

You can remember who you were before these unhealthy thoughts started taking over.

People are here for you.

THAT is why we need to talk.

These conversations shouldn't be taboo, and nobody should feel ashamed if they are finding things hard.

Start those conversations, and if someone you know is struggling, listen to them.

Just listen.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Hello, February 2017

What a start to the year it's been. 

My January has been intense. It was full of challenges, and accomplishments, and deep conversations, and appointments, and trying new things.

2017 is my year to work on healing properly, not just pushing on through the things I've been struggling with.

It's time to face these issues head on, and really get to the bottom of my anxiety and work on making lasting improvements.

January was a good start.

February will be better.

I'm now regularly going to pilates and doing yoga and mediation.

I'm cooking more, eating three meals a day and trying to work up to reintroducing some of the foods I had ruthlessly been cutting out.

I'm facing up to some things that have really been troubling me for a long, long time and coming up with ways to tackle them.

In the past month, I've tested myself and been reminding myself I can do more than I think.

I've had so much support from the people around me, and I know I can keep going to achieve more.

I'm excited about this year and everything that lies ahead.

I feel like I'm beginning to remember who Sophie is again, and rediscover the things I love doing, and discover things I hadn't yet tried.

A new month always brings a little renewed sense of motivation, so all I'm really trying to say here is that I'm carrying on.

I'm going to do more, try more and be myself more.

February, I'm ready for you.

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