Tag Archives: mental health

Mental Health Awareness Week: MY TOP TIPS!

To continue my posts for my Mental Health Awareness Week.

As I’ve spoken about in the past, I have had alot of therapies, counselling, support etcetc.. within my short life with regards to coping with stress and anxiety. I thought for mental health awareness week it was only right to share my favourite coping mechanisms.

Chewing Gum

Distraction from your thoughts is really importnt- whether you chew gum, click a pen or fiddle with something- detracting your thoughts elsewhere is a good idea.

Medicate if necessary

There seems to be a huge stigma around medicating for mental illness- I was put on medication for my mental health and have been on a variety of different ones ever since. It is a big decision to make and requires regular slow monitoring. Medication is not a cure for mental health issues, however, along side therapies it can be of great support.

Lavender

I just find lavender so calming! I have lavender oil in an air purifier/ diffuser. lavender pillow spray, a bag of lavender in the box I store my bedsheets in. For me I’m very sensory- smells really make me feel better. If you ever walk into my room you’ll be hit with a concoction of oils, melts, incense, candles, lush products, air fresheners- all sorts. I like everything to smell nice as it’s comforting.

Write your thoughts down-

Sometimes we react to situations before we think. Writing down frustrations can ease tension with others and help us rationalise our thoughts.

Brain Dump-

Feeling stressed:(???? Write every word that comes to mind on the paper- even if its the most totally random word ever, it helps to get everything out your brain! Categorise them into things that are in your control and things that are not. Rip up and throw away any worries which you cannot control- taking them out of you brain and into the bin. Organise a plan surrounding each small worry to eventually cross them off your worry list..

Have a plan so you don’t become overwhelmed-

Sadly in life there are things we have to do that we don’t want to. The quicker and more efficiently you can get these tasks done, the sooner you are able to do something you love. Planning what needs to be talked about in an important doctors appointment or what you need to buy in the shops on a Saturday when you’ve got three toddlers running riot with you can help maintain structure and allow tasks to be completed quicker. I’m awful at remembering things so I strongly recommend writing conversations or reminders/ to do’s down for later you. Feeling prepared for challenges helps ease anxiety.

Don’t worry about future you-

As Cringey as it sounds, no one knows what the future holds- we cannot fly ahead into the future or teleport to the past. Focus on the now. The present. Your happiness. Your life now. DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU RIGHT NOW AND FOCUS ON THE REST LATER.

Your Grades are not the most important thing in the world- exam anxiety-

Test or exam anxiety is one of the most common forms of anxiety- I used to faint, cry, hyperventilate, be sick in exams. WHY?! Has anyone ever asked me for my grades for XYZ? No! Whether it’s a small test at work or your A levels your grades do not define who you are as a person- it is likely you will be able to retake, ask for advice or ignore the results. Why we put so much pressure on kids from such a young age is beyond me!

Name 5 things you can see, hear, smell, touch- Grounding Technique

This is a great calming strategy- say them out loud.

Talk to people

Talking to friends and family about how you feel can be scary and you may feel you don’t want too burden them with your problems- therapists are a good second option if this is the case. They are qualified and paid to deal with other peoples issues. The act of hanging out with friends and talking often can raise moods as we become distracted and occupied with fun. Don’t feel you have to speak about issues as such- you can just generally have a chit chat! When my panic was at it’s worst, the act of someone asking ‘are you okay’ or me saying ‘ i feel really anxious/panicky’ would usually trigger a panic attack. My friends and family knowing how too behave to make me feel safe and conversations to distract me was beneficial. Communication is great.

Get out the house-

My Agoraphobia stemmed from not leaving the house in bouts of anxiety and depression. Very relevant to current times, it is important you leave the house when possible. Open the front door and sit on your drive if you don’t feel up to going miles from home or simply walk down your road. Your brain becomes conditioned to ‘liking’ being inside very quickly and it will only detriment your mental health. You do not need to go on 5 mile walks every day or sit in the garden 24 hours a day but simply getting out and about a little will maintain your social interaction with other humans even without speaking to anyone, the act of simply seeing another pair of arms and legs is useful to your brains coping strategy.

Don’t avoid your problems

LAUREN! This is one for myself. There is a cycle I tend to live my life by with relation to my physical health- boom and bust, all or nothing. Similarly I follow the same pattern with my mental health- I subconsciously ignore all my stresses until I hit breaking point- release all my feelings and then return back to neutral. This tends to repeat itself. Keeping your thoughts in only makes for emotional mood swings and subconscious changes in your behaviour.

Take a break and try again in a little while

Breathe in for 5 seconds and out for 8.

The idea with this is basically ‘breathe out more than you breathe in to maintain stable breathing’. As we become anxious we close up. We want to have bigger, deeper breaths. If you find yourself becoming tight chested or panicky focusing on maintaining your breathing is good. Weirdly for me if I didn’t have my sole focus on this it used to trigger panic (something to do with the OCD and counting breaths I’m sure!)

Know you aren’t alone

There is always someone who will speak to you, even if its a stranger online!

Understand others struggle too

Know the facts not your made up scenarios

Understand poor mental health can make fantasy feel like reality. We often make things worse than they are in our heads, assume people think certain things about us or read into behaviours strangely. Without knowing the facts we start to believe our own thoughts! Worried about something or someones opinion of you- ask them?

Drink lots of water

Water is amazing for everything. Skin, Brain. Bladder. I used to get very very light-headed, pins and needles or faint- I find water a great energy boost to ‘bring me back’ Again it’s another great distraction method- focusing on your gulps of water as opposed to things happening around you.

Have regular snacks or a mini squash bottle to maintain blood sugars-

Similarly carrying small snacks or a mini squash bottle is useful as we tend to feel low when we are hungry/ lacking in vitamins.

Communicate

Breathe out your nose- this will make you giggle!

Have a positive playlist

Have all your favourite music in one place. I have spotfiy playlists for every mood/ scenario!

Do something nice for someone

Doing something nice for someone else helps us feel better about ourselves.

Give yourself a gift-

We treat others to nice gifts or surprises- why not do the same to yourself.

Write a nice letter to yourself

Spa nights at home

This is one of my favourites- whenever my friends are feeling rubbish we have a spa night- I run the bath for them with epsom salts and candles, bubbles and bath bombs- spa sounds and fairy lights- colour changing lighting. Since doing beauty courses I’ll do facials or gel manicure/pedicures. These are my favourite types of evenings. So girly and my friends love it! My uni halls room was literally known as the detox room- everyone would go on their nights out be incredibly hungover and then come over to my ‘spa’ and eat pizza. AW I miss Uni! Corona go away.

Write your compliments

The most lovely lady on Facebook told me this! We are so quick to remember any negative comments about our appearance yet we don’t accept positive comments. I cannot think of one compliment in the last few weeks, yet I know I’ve received so many- since writing down my compliments, it enables me to see what other people think of me and maybe slowly I’ll start to believe it! (SIDE NOTE don’t comment on peoples appearance negatively- just let them be!) Give out compliments to others often!

Document your day went well today?

Write about one good thing from each day.

Find a fury friend-

Ahh… I wish I had a pet, they’re so good at comforting.

Get Creative/ paint or colour

Art is therapeutic!

Celebrate your small achievements

Haven’t brushed your hair for two weeks but you did today? WELL DONE!!

Cut out negativity from your life- it’s okay to prioritise your own mental health

I’ve always been a bit of a Negative Nancy, I’m trying my best to become more of a Positive Polly! Distance yourself from anyone that doesn’t fit to your new mindset until you feel strong enough.

Create a kindness kit (happy box)- see my blog post on these)

You are in control of your life- don’t let anyone else be.

I hope some or at least one of these tips will help you.

Love yourself, Look after yourself and be kind!

L xxx

Mental Health Awareness Week- Panic Disorder

I thought I’d explain a little about my experience with Panic Disorder in my second post for mental health awareness week:)

“Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder where you regularly have sudden attacks of panic or fear.”

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and panic at certain times, this does not mean you have an anxiety disorder and is likely to be merely a natural response to stressful or dangerous situations. Welldone you. Your brain works properly. Our bodies are built to react to situations that make us feel uneasy. Those with Panic disorder have a chemical imbalance which leads their bodies to be in ‘fight or flight’ mode regularly with no triggers.

Fight or Flight, Freeze?


A tiger is about to attack- do you fight it, flight (run away) or freeze- don’t move? Your instincts will act quickly and respond therefore the decision is not in your hands.

A perfect example of ‘Fight, Flight Freeze’ is when you slam on the brakes when the car in front of you suddenly stops, you do not stop to think about your decision. Your body reacts to its own instincts quickly to protect you… In someone with Panic disorder the body doesn’t understand its potential dangers and therefore is over sensitive in its responses. As someone who has lived with anxiety disorders I always include freeze as I feel fight and flight aren’t always what actually happens!

I speak in past tense as I would say I am pretty much over the panic stage of my life * touch wood* & gosh am I pleased! So how did I do it? It was not easy! I did a previous post on accessing therapies. Exposure Technique & CBT along with medication ( I tried tonnes- this was definitely about finding what worked for me).

For someone with panic disorder, intense sudden feelings of anxiety, stress and panic occur very regularly often for no apparent reason. It can effect quality of life greatly & be exceptionally inconvenient.

Symptoms of Panic Disorder are apparent during an anxiety attack or panic attack which is where feelings are suddenly intensified.

Feelings of high anxiety whilst awful and very distracting are different to anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks become uncontrollable. People with other anxiety disorders can have panic attacks but it is likely they have more of a trigger & do not come out of the blue like in Panic disorder.

Symptoms include:

  • A racing heartbeat
  • Feeling faint
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cold Sweats
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Short of breath
  • Hyperventilating
  • Trembling
  • Hot flushes
  • Shivering
  • Chills
  • Shaky limbs
  • Dizziness
  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • A need to go to the toilet
  • Cramp
  • Ringing in your ears
  • A churning stomach
  • Tingling in your fingers
  • A need to escape a situation
  • Feeling like you’re not connected to your body
  • A lack of control

For me, I experienced anxiety most of the day- these symptoms would be toilet issues, nausea, stomach aches, feeling constantly on edge or dizzy.

When I had an anxiety attack, symptoms would exacerbate, I would run as far away from a situation as I could until I dropped my body to the floor- My reasoning? If I fainted, I couldn’t go anywhere as I’m already on the floor. I would feel a wave come over me- some days I could feel it coming on building for a few hours, other days in seconds.

My Panic

My main symptoms of an attack were: cold sweats, hyperventilating- couldn’t speak, dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision, weak legs. After I experienced a panic attack I would feel a sense of relief. You know sometimes when you’ve been sick? You feel better for a short period of time after being sick as you’ve got it all out? Then your next round of nausea begins before you are sick again. This is the best way to explain how my panic cycle was.

Perseverance and Resilience are important in overcoming your mental health condition. Accepting your set backs but getting back up again is what will keep you going.

“The number of attacks you have will depend on how severe your condition is. Some people have attacks once or twice a month, while others have them several times a week.”

Why me & not them?

It is not totally known what causes someone to have panic disorder, but factors such as these may play a role:

  • Genetics
  • Major stresses or Traumas
  • Being more sensitive to anxiety/ stress or prone to negative emotions
  • Certain changes in the way parts of your brain function and it’s chemicals

Phobias:

Many people with panic disorder experience phobias. No this isn’t simply being ‘scared’ of spiders. It’s a fear. The thought of your trigger being within 100 miles of you & your body goes into meltdown.

There are hundreds of phobias some specific to things like spiders, lifts or snakes- for me I had Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia. This basically meant small spaces and big open spaces. Weirdly the spaces didn’t have to be that small. Cars without windows being open. Classrooms with the door shut.

AGORAPHOBIA: extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

CLAUSTROPHOBIA: extreme or irrational fear of confined places

People are very quick to throw words round such as ‘claustrophobic’ ‘depressed’. School kids are famous for the ‘jheez don’t have a panic attack comments’ or the ‘omg I’m gunna kill myself’ comments. Not only are they misusing words. Incorrect. Unnecessary & careless. They can be exceptionally triggering for people with mental health issues. The boy who cried wolf? If you make jokes about things like this- if god forbid you ever found yourself in a situation where you needed support people may not be so understanding.

So I guess that’s Panic Disorder in a nutshell. Work on yourself as a whole and things should get better, get medical support + don’t expect it to be an easy ride:)

Mental Health Awareness Week- How I got better & Accessing help.

This is a post in a series for mental health awareness week 🙂

I went from this… daily.

My Birthday 2017

To this…

Please remember things do get better & life will become easier to handle. It did for me and it will for you. There is so much support available to you it’s just about knowing how to access it and being in the right frame of mind to do so. Work on improving things when you’re having a relatively good day – if you try and tackle life on a bad day not much gets done and things can be overwhelming.

The best bit of advice I have to give with regards to mental health & supporting people with mental health conditions would be…

‘you have to want to get better and want to fix things otherwise things won’t get better’.

I of course still struggle with my mental health and it might comfort you to know this- I’ve just had a lot of practice in ‘feeling better’.

At 15 I was diagnosed with ‘Panic Disorder and Social Anxiety, with Agoraphobic and Claustrophobic symptoms.’ I later developed a diagnosis of depressive disorder (clinical depression). I guess the knock on effect of not leaving the house much due to panic contributed to this!!

I am not ashamed to say I have struggled and you should not be either. My mental health issues left me having 6/7 panic attacks a day everyday at it’s worse, not washing my hair, brushing my teeth, being too scared to leave my bedroom, staying in the house for months at a time, fainting left right and centre, not making it to school/ sixthform or spending the day in isolation as the thought of being near anyone or anything made me physically sick. I experienced pain, tears, suicidal thoughts and anxiety provoked feceal soiling regularly (that means pooing myself).

Getting help:

The idea of getting help for your mental health can be incredibly scary. Charities, Doctors and Nurses can help you to some extent, with getting better a lot resides on ‘homework’ completing self help tasks and activities suggested by professionals.

I was referred to a Psychiatrist who was a slightly odd, but wonderful man- in his late 80’s, incredibly intelligent, very quirky. He prescribed me a range of medication which we regularly reviewed & recommended books & blogs. My family were exceptionally supportive & my mum, dad & step mum alternated between taking me to appointments of which I am eternally grateful.

I also had regular appointments with the most lovely Psychologist once or twice a week. She would laugh at me to encourage me to understand silly thoughts and comfort me in moments of frustration. Therapy is a weird one. I spent years under her care and she knew absolutely everything about me, yet I know nothing about her at all. I couldn’t tell you if she was married or had kids or where she was from & I think this is really important in a good therapist. Finding someone completely separate from your family and friends. We focused on CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) & the exposure technique- I genuinely think this technique gave me my life back! It’s very easy to say ‘don’t cry,’ ‘just do it’, ‘just go you might have fun’ I don’t think I actually enjoyed any social events for years. It is only recently I find my self having fun.

What is exposure technique?

“Exposure therapy is a technique in behavior therapy to treat anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy involves exposing the target patient to the anxiety source or its context without the intention to cause any danger. Doing so is thought to help them overcome their anxiety or distress.”

You repeat this process of exposure until the anxiety is no longer severe. Eventually the aim is you access the trigger with no anxiety and start to enjoy yourself!

Exposure technique works on forcing yourself into a situation which makes you feel uncomfortable! So for me, I had to go to friends and families houses, restaurants (gosh this one was a nightmare) Nandos was the absolute worst! I had to walk half way down my road without panicking, go to the shop up the road but not go inside. Go inside the shop, buy something, sit with a group of people, go to a party etc… I was sent on weekly missions. I had tasks set. Funnily for me- As a people pleaser- I felt intense guilt if I didn’t complete the task set & this therefore encouraged me. On weeks I couldn’t complete my exposure task, I felt I was wasting my parents money and my therapists time therefore I’d do them.

Tasks would include stages which we would build upon. Stand at the bus stop. Watch a bus drive past. Get the bus with someone (funny story here- my dad attempted this ‘challenge’ with me something that seems so minor now but was definitely such a big deal to me- I cried, resisted spending hours building up to it… waited at the bus stop anxiously with my dad… waited some more…the bus didn’t come! Ever. This happened every-time we attempted it. I loved this! I didn’t want to get on the bus at all anyway!!! Sometimes life works in your favour) However! The longer I spent avoiding situations such as taking the bus, the harder it was to over come and the more I struggled. I eventually got to the final stage of getting the bus alone.

Some things in life are unavoidable, there are no other options, they’re hard but they have to be done- prime example- in Venice there were water buses to get around- this was the only option (I would’ve suggested we hired a car or got taxis otherwise). My opticians is in the shopping centre- I have no choice but to go to the opticians to get broken glasses fixed etc..

What is CBT?

“Cognitive behavioral therapy is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.”

CBT FOR DUMMIES IS A GREAT SERIES OF BOOKS WHICH WORKS ON SELF HELP THROUGH CBT.
Really recommended
Really recommend
Useful books

What is mindfulness?

  1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I hated mindfulness. It was not for me! That doesn’t mean it won’t work for you 😉

My Therapist worked with all three of these. She was incredibly patient & understanding- I must’ve been a very frustrating client to work with! Baby steps got me to where I am today. Things don’t get better over night and I definitely still have some issues, they’re just different now!

I had support through school & college of both educational mentoring/ pastoral support and counselling. If you’re in school and are anxious about accessing support these student support services can be a good first port of call and they also usually have email addresses which helps ease anxieties when communicating!

Three tips I took away from my school counsellors:

  • Headphones, wear them everywhere, t1ake them everywhre, have your own bubble, when you begin to feel the panic set in put them in your ears. I used to listen to hypnotherapy in my ears, my favourite music (weirdly some music triggered panic attacks) or just silence.
  • Chewing gum- This gives you something else to focus on other than the feelings of panic.
  • Tablet in my pocket: My small antipsychotic in my pocket- I can play with it, feel it and know it’s there if I need it. I managed to get weird special consideration for exams so although I could not take my phone in I took headphones, gum, one tablet in each pocket a pebble and a small soft toy- weird but I guess its a sensory thing- whatever works for you! No one knew that didn’t need to that I’d have these things on me!

I haven’t managed to shake some of my coping strategies yet and still use these behaviours however less obsessively. I always have the anti panic tablet on me but I haven’t taken one for over a year. Having it in my pocket is my support to know it’s there just incase but I also have the brain power to know I do not need to take it. I used to panic about panicking! I’d carry three pairs of headphones as one may not work, I might lose one. It was ridiculous I know now! But it worked. Having 3 pairs of headphones, 3 packs of chewing gum and a tablet in every room, pocket or bag stopped me panicking OBVIOUSLY?!?! If you checked any pocket of mine now- the tablet is almost always still there & so are the headphones (but just one of each!) If I don’t have them on me now I won’t panic, I use it as a sign of strength!

Appointments:

As my support was through private insurance, they only offer you 10 sessions. ( I think I might’ve done a short post about why I didn’t go with the local Camhs (child adolescence mental health service) before?- basically the receptionist petrified me on the phone as she was so rude and 15 year old Lauren refused to use the service. *eyerolls* )

My mental health was pretty abysmal so private insurance waived the 10 appointment rule and enabled me to see them every week right up until I went to University. So 3 nearly 4 years. Towards the end of my therapy sessions we ‘weaned me off seeing them’ this sounds silly but it was sort of to see if I could cope on my own. Gosh I sound like such a baby reading this back! This was tough. I cannot lie. I struggled. The only thing I would leave my house for was for these appointments. I was a massive planner & had lists of lists. I would insist on being driven to the door of everywhere I went alone and have someone wait with me before and after. If they weren’t outside the door waiting for me when I had finished I would panic. The thought of having to leave the house alone petrified me. As I reduced my sessions, I saw my therapist fortnightly, monthly, every five weeks- until I stopped asking for appointments- I felt I had nothing to talk to them about! Great.

Specialists believed my anxiety was brought on by a lack of control of social situations triggering OCD behaviours. Funnily Tourettes is often seen in people with OCD too! There are days I still feeling myself slipping back into negative mindsets feeling generally low, this is okay! I allow myself to have these days. Through years of therapy, I now have the tools to manage them.

I am not ashamed of the old me. I am sad I had to go through this & miss out a lot of my teenage years- it is part of what has shaped me and has given me so much resilience. I do not remember the last time I had a panic attack. If you knew ‘the old me,’ you’d be absolutely amazed with this information.

Let’s not glamourise mental health conditions & start to understand the raw truths of how they can make people behave. Mental health has a huge impact on our physical health, be it through stress behaviours, IBS or pain flares.

Understand mental health conditions can affect anyone and everyone has their own issues. Offer & accept help.

Nhs links

https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/

Through having therapy I now laugh & when I genuinely find things funny, explore, adventure and have the best friends ever.

Through being mentally unwell, I have become empathetic, calm, organised and understanding.

Be kind to each other, be supportive & understanding. Ask for help.

Lauren xxx

NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL DISABLED 2020.

I’ve noticed people are very quick to focus on the negative side of disability (including myself), people refer to me as ‘the girl with tourettes’ at uni or tell me they’re proud of me, I inspire them, they don’t know how I do it- (I have to lol), whilst compliments like these are always lovely to hear, I can’t help but think I am infact just a ‘normal’ person who has additional challenges. Everyone encounters struggles in their lives- mine just happens to have happened at a young age and may last a long time. Having a disability (or 3) changes your life dramatically and the way an able- bodied person will live is exceptionally different to someone who suffers illness.

It is clear to me, many people who have not experienced illness themselves or been impacted by a poorly family member struggle to understand the concept that disabled people aren’t babies, have aspirations, goals & intelligence. We as humans are all very quick to focus on the negatives surrounding life. All things doom and gloom, the rubbish stuff that comes along with disabilities- be it symptoms, societies views or just simply feeling rubbish about life.

I think it’s important that I share why I think disabled people are amazing. Many employers are quick to think ‘I won’t hire them they’re disabled they’re unreliable,’ despite this being against the law hey ho! I believe so many disabled people are incredible, they come on par with other lovely humans. Focusing on personality type as opposed to abilities is important. If you have a driven disabled person, why should they be belittled? A person’s personality affects their work ethic, someone who is able bodied may not have half the qualities a disabled person may have and vice versa. I want to share the positives, the qualities that many disabled people have acquired, obtained in their human systems due to the powers of being disabled.

DISABLED NOT LESS ABLE

Important

Disabled individuals have intense willpower.

Disabled people have alot of empathy, they have experienced the worst pain, nausea, diahorrea, bleeding, bruising and are therefore able to understand and empathise with others.

Disabled people don’t give up– they can’t. They show resilience. Giving up is not an option when you find yourself chronically ill. You have to keep going to appointments, physio, taking meds or you’re going to find yourself feeling worse and worse.

Disabled people think outside the box, Life isn’t always the most accessible, this means that disabled people have to be quick thinkers and be able to create their own peculiar, yet functional ‘life hacks’. (I’ll do a post of some of mine soon!)

Disabled people understand how to care for others as they’ve spent long periods of their lives needing to be cared for.

Disabled people are excellent first aiders. (although I’ve discovered I’m not strong enough to do CPR on my first aid course, I definitely have some great medical knowledge that the average Joe won’t have. I bet I can stop you fainting, bleeding, panicking, crying etc..

Disabled people are opinionated: Disabled people spend much of their lives advocating for themselves. I think its so important as a human being to have an opinion. People with a disability usually have a very strong sense of right and wrong due to finding themselves in vulnerable positions.

Disabled people are strong minded: They know what they want and not much will get in the way of what they would like to achieve. We are determined. The only thing likely to stop me is infact my health.

Disabled people can be very organised: Ha. I say ‘can be’, I used to be the most organised person ever… since becoming chronically ill, I am a nightmare!!!! I frustate myself with the inability to organise my medication, cook proper meals and remember things. Many disabled people are exeptionally organised, as if they do not keep their medication and paperwork sorted they would find themselves in a big fat mess. Not organising your life as a wheelchair user can lead to ‘trip hazards’ in the home. Not managing your medication well can be exceptionally dangerous.

Disabled people can have a great ‘3rd opinion’ on situations: I like to think I have two opinions, my first thought and my opinion as ‘the old me,’ ‘the healthy me’ and the opinion of someone who suffers with mobility and access needs. Having a mindset where you are able to see things from different points of view is a great quality that comes with being sick!

Disabled people are problem solvers: A prime example would be how to get around physically inaccessible situations. They are quick thinkers, able to foresee all the things that may go wrong and preplan for them. Disabled people aren’t phased by much and are able to approach emergency situations in a calm matter. Disabled people understand how to ‘fix’ problems such as coming down off medication, forgetting medication, breaking things, being unable to do things, everyday struggles and dilemmas- disabled people are used to facing.

Disabled people are understanding, important and helpful.

According to Census UK, only 18% of the UK’s working population have ticked the disability box-, yet 22% of the UK population are considered disabled. I understand many disabled people are too ill to work, however do people not tick the disability box due to the fact disabled people are worried of their employers potential discrimination due to their disability? Does disabled always mean they are not as good at their job? NO! Disability does not affect your personality anymore than your personality affects your personality!

I hope this post makes you appreciate all the positive qualities in yourself or disabled people in your life.

What the **** is a spoon?!

Since becoming unwell I’ve realised I have to make decisions about how I spend my time, if I want to go to a party in the evening I need to spend all day in bed resting & eating well. If I wake up in the night in pain, I need to cancel a morning appointment so I can make the afternoon one.

Now, I am going to talk about spoons… no we aren’t going to eat with them, please bear with me!

My Grandpa introduced me to ‘the spoon theory’ a few years back, he loves to research & is fab at supporting me with my condition. I received an email from him which read, something along the lines of , ‘ use the spoon theory to structure your days’ Attached was a link…

Some days my spoons feel like forks!!!

Now when I received this email, I thought he’d gone a little mad! The older generation of my family are often sending me links to obscure videos and spam websites in my emails, usually that I’d be worried to click on as it’s likely they’ve forwarded it on from their other elderly friends *face palm* & I’m usually worried I’m going to be hacked and a victim of fraud when I receive emails like this… The elderly aren’t particularly tech savvy! My symptoms weren’t great that day and I clicked on the link in his email- here I learnt about ‘The spoon theory!’ At the time it was very new to me, but now it’s great & I see it everywhere- perhaps my Grandpa was ahead of ‘the youngsters’ for once hey!

The spoon theory is a great system to live your life by.

Why is it called the spoon theory, that’s a bit random!?

The spoon theory was originally created by Christine Miserandino in 2003 as she struggled to explain how life with an autoimmune condition makes her feel on a daily basis. She was sat at dinner with a friend who asked how she was and used spoons from the tables near by to explain her energy levels, she then decided this worked great & wrote about it. Within the theory she describes a persons units of energy to be represented by a spoon- hence ‘The Spoon Theory.’

The average person would be entitled to 12 spoons a day. The amount of spoons used per activity in their day depends on the person, their health & previous commitments. If you are an able bodied person you should theoretically have roughly the same amount of energy each day.

Spoons are sometimes replaced with the idea of a metaphorical battery.

For people with chronic illness or a condition that causes chronic fatigue, some activities may take more ‘spoons’ than it would for an able bodied person. Healthy people tend to have ‘stronger’ spoons or are more consistent in having 12 spoons a day to live with, whereas chronically ill people may have as little as half the amount of spoons!

If you use up all your energy in the morning you will have none left for the afternoon/ evening. Spoons are therefore a great visual representation to let you know when you are becoming low on energy & that it’s time to take a break. An hour nap could perhaps re-charge one spoon. If you power through you’ll end up using extra spoons and have to borrow spoons, which will leave you with less for tomorrow.

In the ideal ‘super duper organised’ persons’ life, you might have a book in which you track your spoons (drawing them visually and dedicating your daily tasks to each). In real life- This is less likely, I’d rather an extra half hour in bed then have to waste excess energy writing my daily spoons out! (Although I’m sure this could be quite therapeutic for someone who likes to live according to a timetable and structure). I tend to have a mental approach to my spoons. I can feel certain symptoms coming on & I know that I need to calm down- (it’s rare I do take a step back- I tend to live my life at 110% or 10% – I am yet to master the art of pacing!) That being said I know in my head according to my spoon count, what I should be doing throughout the day.

This is a waffley one sorry! But I do hope it makes sense:)

So…

How do I count my spoons?

Some activities cost more spoons than others.

For a person with a chronic illness they need to make carefully thought out decisions about which activities they can participate in, if they don’t do this, it is likely they will experience a flare up (exacerbation of symptoms the following day.) For someone with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalitis) the exhaustion caused by ‘using too many spoons’ is reference to as ‘Post Extertional Malaise’. If you do not pace yourself (and count your spoons), your body has a meltdown and there is a knock on effect from over doing it.

I am a person who wants to do lots of things, trapped in the body of someone who is sick & needs to sleep a lot.

I love this! It’s very accurate.

For many chronically ill people, our illnesses stop us from doing all the things we want to do.

Understanding others’ spoons:

We all have that flaky friend!!!Chronically ill people really really don’t want to be ‘that’ person- they don’t want to appear inconsistent or unreliable, a flake but their energy levels and symptoms can fluctuate. Making people aware of the spoon theory makes it easier not to have to explain yourself. A healthy person rarely needs to plan how to use their spoons, (although it is a great idea for them to be aware of their spoons), they don’t have to decide between a shower and a doctors appointment or a party and going shopping. They’ll likely be tired after a busy day but not fatigued from small activities.

Myalgic Encephalitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has different severities, a person with more severe chronic fatigue syndrome may struggle to shower, get dressed, cook. Each activity an able bodied person may take for granted can be a huge challenge. Many people with other health conditions experience intense chronic fatigue too. Some people who follow the spoon theory refer to themselves as ‘spoonies’ or ‘warriors’ so you may have seen it referred to in that sense. For me this is a bit cringe and I prefer using it mentally, but if it helps you, go for it!

How do I manage my spoons?

For me – changing my bed sheets wipes me out- I know if I’ve got to change my bedsheets, there is absolutely no way I can go out the house too. If I have no choice but to change my bedsheets, I’ll cancel plans for later in the day or invite people to my house where possible. I feel a lot more comfortable in my house as most my friends know of my condition and we can have a nap together or do something low energy, I’ll lay in bed whilst five or six other people chat in my room- it’s a good way to still feel able to be included in plans but not waste spoons getting buses, walking, makeup, getting dressed, going to public places etcetc! On the other hand I may ask for help to change my bed sheets to save spoons, if I can get my carer to change my bed sheets or pay a friend to do so, then it’s likely I’ll make it to dinner or stay awake through that film… maybe if we’re lucky!

Similarly- washing my hair is a Bloomin’ faff! I hate it. No you do not love my hair, no you do not want curly hair ! Hahaha… If I wash it I usually need someone else to brush it or i’ll need a nap after, brushing my hair alone can take me up to an hour. Some days, the act of doing one activity steals spoons from other activities. On a hair wash day it’s unlikely you’ll catch me doing much else unless you can help me with washing and brushing my hair before.

Above is a great poster illustrating the spoon theory.

Now if each of these day you say activities only took one spoon, that’s 16 SPOONS GONE. You’ve already borrowed 3 from tomorrow!! What are you going to do as each task takes up to 4 spoons!!! That’s too much maths for me, but you get the stress.

1. wake up
2. brush your teeth (1 spoon- sometimes I get back into bed to do this;) )
3. Shower or Bath (lots of my spoons get taken here! A lay down on my bed after usually helps me recharge)
4. get dressed
5. eat breakfast
6. go to the doctors (for me this could take 4 or 5 spoons)
7. come home (driving makes me sleepy and the bus so I’d definitely give this a couple more spoons)
8. make and eat dinner (most the time cooking makes me so exhausted that I end up sleeping whilst my dinners still in the oven!)
9. change into your pyjamas (let’s be real, I usually fall asleep in my clothes!)

You get the picture, these are just essential day to day tasks, we have nine activities and right away a lot more than 12 spoons have been used. Some of these tasks like brushing your teeth may only use up one spoon, while going to the doctors has a number of stages and could use up six spoons. This only leaves you with five spoons for everything else… and there’s no way you can make five spoons stretch without exhaustion. So what are your options? You can opt to ‘borrow’ spoons from the next day’s allowance but that means you start the next day short, you can’t be short on spoons everyday because you’ll run out, imagine trying to do your essential tasks with even less spoons. It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of overdoing it and exhausting yourself due to not managing your energy levels. Therefore if you use 20 spoons in a day you’ll need to make up for those extra spoons with rest the next day.


Sure, able bodied people might have the odd day where they don’t feel like cooking or cleaning, they may have hurt their back or over done it. This is temporary. Having energy and good health should be classed as a luxury, share your spoons, if you know you’ll be okay with one less spoon- offer to carry someone’s bag, grab bits from the shops, help with cleaning, cook their dinner. An activity which takes one spoon for you may take three for someone who is struggling.

Right… I’m going to stop rambling on about spoons, because seriously, there’s only so much you can say- they’re a metal utensil used for soups and yoghurt! Maybe we are all going mad!

Take care & count your spoons

Lauren xx

My mumma got me this engraved spoon as a reminder, it’s pretty with little flowers on too!

aticcersguidetolife

8th Oct 2019

Ticcing through photos.

The happiest people are the prettiest- always.

So! (Ready..)

I’ve been in a few support groups and stuff before and frankly I find them pretty depressing – personally, the majority of the time I like to try and stay positive whilst being chronically ill as my mood is so easily flipped to negative. So, I’ll tell you a little about myself and why I decided to write a blog.

I’m in my second year studying English Language and Linguistics at Uni of Brighton. I am also a part time beauty therapist (recently I have been working hard to complete courses to be able to fund being a disabled student woo hoo). My conditions do cause brain fog and fatigue so do forgive me if some things simply do not make sense to you!

At 14 I was diagnosed with Panic disorder and Depressive disorder which was a bit crappy; I didn’t really go out of the house much for two years – unless I had no choice. Many people struggled to understand, but through the support of my family, medication & multiple medical professionals, after a long haul battle I’d like to say I’m 90% over the panic stage of my life (touch wood).

My fairly new challenges in life have been ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) a diagnosis in 2017, Fibromyalgia with Hyper-mobility syndrome & a recent diagnosis of Tourette’s syndrome!!! (No, I don’t shout swear words out constantly, don’t worry). On top of this I have multiple hormone imbalances, such as vitamin levels and thyroid levels.

BUT YOU LOOK SO NORMAL!
‘What is normal? I’m drinking beer through a straw as I spill stuff down myself constantly.

I have a blue badge which has improved my quality of life dramatically! I am so grateful for it. But I am still feeling slightly isolated. I have plenty of friends who are amazing but our energy levels simply don’t match up. It’s hard for people to understand why I sleep 26 hours a day or why I slur my words when I’m tired or appear in slow motion – as a 19 year old most my friends are out clubbing till 6am. I’m sure if you’ve ever experienced an invisible chronic health condition you are used to the ‘oh really, you can’t do that?’ and the ‘you really don’t look disabled’ comments that come along with the disability.

So basically, cut a long story short, I’d love to start being proactive in a positive way, to meet people with similar conditions to my own & share our experiences. My doctor alone has met 1 person with tourettes in 29 years of practicing medicine, and as for ME/CFS, I feel they are very misunderstood conditions. (No, not everyone is tired in the same way I am), (No, exercising excessively won’t help, as it is not down to laziness!) I’m hoping that with a little insight into my life, it could help improve others’ and my own mental and physical health!

It’s okay to feel shitty sometimes: I spent yesterday crying – as going back to uni with tourettes, anxiety and fatigue is my idea of hell. For me, my own negativity tends to bring me down so…

As I’m writing this, I am trying my best to surround myself with goodness & maintain my positivity. Feel free to follow my journey of tics and tips 🙂

So yeah- that’s me!