Thursday, 12 July 2018

The value of inclusion in participation

Hello everyone, long time no speak, I hope you’re all well?
After a slight break from blogging, I wanted to write about something really close to my heart the value of inclusion. Before I begin, I think it’s important to remember that this is my personal experiences, other people may experience things differently and offer a completely different perspective.

From a young age, I’ve always struggled to find the confidence to participate in activities and things either many people take for granted or enjoy. From a young age I’ve always been quite shy and softy spoken and struggled making friends especially with people I don’t know or in in group situations. This lead has lead to me experiencing social and generalised anxiety and depression.

Age 4 I was also diagnosed dyspraxic which can means  I can struggle physically with things such as: balance, co-ordination, spatial awareness, fine motor skills, organisation, planning and day to day tasks people take for granted take a lot longer, require more concentration, and take more effort. It can also mean alongside mild dyslexia things like writing, structuring and proof reading these blogs or studying can take me longer too.

I’ve struggled with my confidence and believing in myself since I was very little
alongside struggling to understand my self esteem,  emotions, anxieties and worries. It’s affected my confidence in stepping out of my comfort zone trying new things, travelling, anything involving crowds or social situations due to anxiety. Anxiety isn’t something to be taken lightly, it can stop you from wanting to leave your bed it’s more than just worrying.

Due to being different, quieter, having different music tastes to my peers and experiencing anxiety. I’ve had periods where I’ve been or felt excluded.I remember vividly not being invited to many  of the children’s parties back in school and being in floods of tears wondering why and what I must have done wrong. One of my big issues with social anxiety is worrying how I come across to others either, online or offline. I can worry a lot I might come across as rude, embarrassing, or disinterested or boring and that people don’t want to see me or enjoy my company or am writing rubbish online.

As an avid pop music fan and growing up listening to (in my opinion) feel good uplifting pop music. Helps to lift my mood when I’m feeling low or down due to depression and I’ve been especially lucky to have some lovely handwritten messages from Mollie and her words of kindness, understanding and empathetic nature. But finding things like travel, crowds, the concerts themselves and finding the confidence to let go, drop my guard and enjoy myself due to anxiety and panic attacks
It can be difficult to explain It’s but I would love to find the confidence to join in with things I love more and who’s music has helped me.

Likewise with friends, I value friendship a lot and as someone who has struggled making them if you give me a chance I appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. But again anxiety and social anxiety can make it hard to meet up with friends, keep up with what’s happening or participate and in group situations especially if it involves travel or meeting new people.

A few weeks ago I attended Dyspraxia Foundation conference in London where there was a key note speech from Anxiety UK and I attended the youth group workshops. The thought of being in a group of people and people I didn’t know  was quite anxiety inducing. My friend Alice, who is a youth worker was running the icebreaker sessions. Not naturally something I feel confident or comfortable taking part in. But being an inclusive person and using her own experiences of mental health and dyspraxia in a positive way. Straight away we were met with no pressure to join in or participate and to do what we felt comfortable and people wouldn’t think any less of us for that and because of that many people took part. Thank you to both charities for  helping to move awareness forward and for all being amazing and for an inclusive conference.

It would be lovely to be given a chance and for people to take the time to get to know me and let me go at life at my own pace to build my confidence in situations up. Whilst hopefully managing my anxiety and low moods and emotions. It’s going to take time. I’ve recently started therapy and hopefully I can learn to be calmer, happier and face my fears. As someone who finds it quite difficult to ask for help it’s important that there’s understanding how difficult it is to speak up and ask for help when you’re struggling especially with mental health.

Just because someone finds something difficult or more challenging doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel included or like they belong. Being inclusive is  giving someone a bit of your time, patience and compassion and empathy. Being inclusive isn’t about fitting people into boxes, it’s about letting people find their feet in their own way and at their own speed.

 I like to hope my experiences have made me open minded, non judgmental and someone who will always have a listening ear.

One of the best things you can do listen, help someone to believe in themselves and give someone a chance.

Until next time....

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018- Sensitivity

Hi everyone, I hope you’re well?
I wanted to blog about the value of sensitivity when discussing mental health issues, when someone may disclose they have a difficulty or in general when someone may be not finding life not that easy. Although this blog focuses on Mental Health Awareness Week sensitivity is important when discussing any kind of difficulty, disability or condition and not just relevant to mental health. Many people may have co-occurring mental health problems alongside a disability or difficulty, such as: dyspraxia.

I’ve never been someone who finds it easy to talk about myself, how I feel or the struggles I may be having at a particular moment in time. As someone who has social anxiety/anxiety, my fear of judgment has always been pretty high. A fear of what if someone laughs at me, dismisses me or even worse tells me off or shouts at me for finding life a bit more challenging than they do. I don’t think anyone can fully understand what it’s like to have experiences of mental health unless you have faced challenges yourself but we can all show some empathy.

From an outsider looking in perspective when someone may be facing issues invisible to the eye, be feeling overwhelmed and unfocused with anxiety or withdrawn from the low mood and that they are simply being lazy or not trying hard enough. The world we live in is very fast paced and very go, go, go. So it can be difficult for many people to understand why other people may simply can’t just do something, it took them a longer period of time or why they may get overwhelmed or low with tasks many people simply take for granted. When you add other difficulties  and disabilities to the mix, it adds another layer to the equation. There are also so many different perspectives on mental health, no two experiences are the same. Charities such as: Time To Change and Mind do a lot of work to help to reduce stigma.

But, many people who struggle with their mental health also have difficulties with their self-esteem and confidence. There’s a good chance that we will already be hard on ourselves, or maybe be more sensitive. So sensitivity or a listening ear can mean a lot to someone who is going through a difficult patch. Shouting or insensitive comments or looks don’t make someone feel better about themselves, in fact, it can make things more difficult.

From my own personal experiences due to the invisibility factor, there’s also a fear of people thinking you’re lazy or not trying hard enough. I know well how situations, places and things people take for granted are far from easy to me. Situations which many people wouldn’t think twice about such as transport, getting my hair cut, going to the dentist or going to a concert to name a few. Can be a lot more anxiety and panic-inducing for me and then is the low mood from depression which can come from life too. I know too well how words can make you feel when you're already finding things difficult, but how the sensitivity of others and some understanding can mean a lot too. I would like to thank people for standing by me recently when life has been a bit tough, it means more than you'll ever know.

Sensitivity can help someone believe in themselves when they struggle to and open up and talk when it might be hard.

You’re stronger than you think!

Until next time...

On Sunday my dad and my boyfriend Matt will be running Manchester 10k in aid of Mind and Dyspraxia Foundation to raise awareness. I don't like asking people for money, as I know money is tight at the moment, but every penny helps to make a difference.

Dyspraxia Foundation:

Monday, 19 March 2018

Finding Out More

Hello everyone, I hope you are well?

 I'm sorry for the delay in posting since my last blog it's been a bit of a difficult few months for me- this blog is quite from the heart and took courage to write, so please be kind whilst reading it.

I wanted to write this blog about the value of finding out more, especially when someone has social anxiety, finds it harder to express themselves or talk about how they feel. Checking in with a friend or loved one and asking, "how are you?" or "how are things?" For a lot of people talking about how they feel can be challenging: maybe due to fear of rejection/judgement, finding it difficult to explain or finding the right words. I think it's about finding a balance however, so not to overwhelm someone by asking too many questions, personal questions, or making them feel under pressure.

As someone who has had fear of rejection from a young age and has never been an outspoken person, especially in group situations due to social anxiety/anxiety, I've always struggled to talk about myself and how I feel. In social situations, when it comes to my turn, finding the confidence for me to share my ideas or speak up or stand up in front of a group, can anxiety inducing and is a lot more challenging. It doesn't mean I don't have an opinion/ideas: it's just harder for me and it takes time to feel comfortable and relaxed with people.

One of the best things you can do to be there for someone who has a mental illness, condition or difficulty is to firstly listen, then take a little time find out more. Read blogs, watch Youtube videos, read information on Charity websites. By educating yourself you help to gain awareness not just for someone you care about but also other people. Whilst there is more mental health awareness around in current times, awareness and understanding of dyspraxia are still limited. It's more than just simply being a bit clumsy.

It's important to remember everyone has different challenges and deals with things differently. Just because your friend's friend /next door neighbour has difficulties with their mental health or is dyspraxic doesn't mean they will be the same as me. People can also find different situations more challenging than others.  My anxiety can take various forms: generalised, health-related and social. I can also experience panic attacks anxiety-based depression.

Some people like to use an "outsider looking in" approach to finding out more about someone, but for people who may have anxiety/mh challenges, this may be more tricky, as is the case also for any invisible difficulty. Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface. You cannot tell fully, no matter what someone puts on Social Media, whether they are having a good/bad day, so always try and show some kindness. Even though I've been blogging for a while now there are still things people may not know about me and chapters of my story not told.

But most importantly find out more to get to know who someone is as a person, to get to know their heart and soul. What floats their boat and  and what their interests and passions are.

Putting us under pressure to open up or do things, however, doesn't help, we need to be given time and empathy. Be in someone's corner, by showing your support, whilst it doesn't take away their challenges, it can mean that they aren't facing them alone. For many people, confidence and self-esteem are quite big issues which can go alongside other difficulties.  I know from my own personal lived experiences in my day to day life, words of support can mean a lot.

 Our lives are like a book but there may be chapters of the story which are untold. By taking the time to find out more you can help someone unlock their pages and help to write the future.

Until next time.......

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The value of empathy, and understanding

Hello everyone,

Having empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes, to show them some kindness and care.  I don't think you can truly fully understand what someone is going through whether it be a mental health condition, difficulty or disability but we can all try and show someone a little bit of compassion and kindness.

As with all of my blogs, no two people are the same, and everyone's experiences are different.  We all have our own personal experiences, stories and there are so many different perspectives, even from those in similar situations. For example, someone else may experience anxiety/depression like me but have different triggers. The same with any other difficulties: the charity Dyspraxia Foundation use the phrase, "when you've met someone who's dyspraxic, you've met someone who is dyspraxic."  It's very easy to put people into a box when in reality we are all unique and present uniquely. We all come from different backgrounds, have different family circumstances and different interests.

As someone who has anxiety/social anxiety, I can overthink and worry about many things and find various situations challenging.  My brain can be like a runaway train,  doubting yourself for situations upcoming or ones you've been in, overthinking anything and everything struggling to switch off. Some of the thoughts you can have when you have social anxiety can be; that people will judge you, laugh at you, look at you or are upset with you. These thoughts can trigger the physical symptoms of anxiety/panic and then affect my mood. If you know someone who has anxiety or is, in general, an over-thinker the little things can really help us. This could be; being aware of your tone of voice, being careful of your words e.g. telling someone "not to worry/panic" isn't helpful, or giving someone a few words of reassurance or kindness or encouragement if a situation is challenging.

Likewise, with dyspraxia my brain and body process information more slowly which means things can take longer to pick up, do or learn. A little bit of time and patience can be lovely.  In all areas of life, it takes me time to build up my confidence. The little things can really mean a lot to me, and which is why I try and be compassionate and understanding to other people.

Last week, my boyfriend Matt and I had our 6th anniversary of being together, we are very similar but at the same time very different people. Being in a relationship with Matt has taught me to have empathy for things which he finds more challenging (social situations and anxiety) and his love of Arsenal Football Club and Britney Spears. I'm grateful to him believing in me. Also thanks to friends and to the lovely Mollie King who I am forever grateful for her kindness.

To anyone who might need this today, no matter where you are on your journey, you are enough and you are good enough. You and your voice and opinions have much value, you matter.

Until next time..

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Time to Talk Day 2018

Hello everyone, I hope you're well?
This Thursday (1st February)  is Time To Talk Day which is run by the amazing mental health charity Time To Change. This is a day which encourages people to try and talk more about mental health to help reduce stigma and misunderstanding.

Up to 1 in 4 people can struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives, there is a good chance that this is yourself or someone close to you. Mental health conditions as with many disabilities or difficulties are invisible to the eye, so you can't tell by looking at someone what they might be going through. 

The theme this year is about how there doesn't have to be a set place to have conversations around mental health. I have always struggled opening up about my anxiety/low mood and how I might be feeling, I know talking isn't the easiest for everyone and I know from my own experiences anxiety can make you feel like you’re bothering people and opening up can be difficult. Not everyone finds it easy to instantly become an open book about how they feel nor feel naturally confident approaching someone and sharing their experiences. It can take a while for me to get to know me and for me to build up my trust. I’m  so grateful to those who are patient with me about this and for words of support with my anxiety.

Which is why the little things can mean a lot to, simply asking how they are, taking the time to find out more or simply giving a listening ear. I know the little things mean SO much to me. I  try my best to give back and be there for friends and loved ones when they might be finding life a little bit more challenging. I would hate for others to feel what I have or to go through what I have in life. 

We all have a responsibility to talk about mental health, not just on Time To Talk Day, but every day.
Awareness days/weeks are simply so much more than on that day or for that week, awareness and understanding needs to be out there all year round. 

But by generating awareness and helping to reduce stigma we can help others feel less alone and encourage more conversations and maybe empower them to seek help to further support themselves. 

Most importantly,never underestimate the power of kindness, kindness can mean a lot. You’re not alone and I hope by writing this blog it might reach out to someone.

Keep going,
You're a lot stronger than you think you are,
Until next time.....

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in Review - Kindness

Hello everyone,
It's come to the time when I write my end of year blog. It really doesn't feel like two minutes since I wrote my end of year blog last year.

I decided to write this blog about kindness as I know the value of the little things. Everyone is different, lives different lives, and has different family circumstances. We all, and our loved ones, live through different challenges. You never know from looking at someone, from their social media or in general what that person might be facing. So many people face challenges which are invisible to the eye and struggle with mental health and/or invisible disabilities or difficulties. Kindness can go a long way in helping others alongside a little bit of time, compassion, empathy and patience and access to the right help and support.

On a personal level it's been a very mixed year for me. I've had ups and downs. I've struggled quite a bit with my anxiety and finding the right help for it. I saw my lovely boyfriend badly injure himself after training for the 10k events he had planned. I am so  proud of him for completing them in the end and battling through, but to see him feeling low was hard. As someone who finds social situations hard and lacks confidence in himself at times, I know going to Parkrun and having "banter" with my dad over which dog they get overtaken by has meant a lot to him. I really hope for Matt's mental health and confidence running is an easier ride for him.

 We both come from quite private families. It can take a bit of time to get to know us and for us to come out of our shell and open up as we both have issues with social anxiety and have never found making and maintaining friends easy.  I'm grateful to loved ones who have supported and believed in me and for being there through the ups and downs. I hope you know how much your support is valued. 

This next year I hope to manage my anxiety/low mood better, to be able to try a lot of new things and experiences in my day to day life, to understand anxiety better. I hope to live in the moment more, not worry as much and start to enjoy life.  I feel like I need to learn to believe in myself and be kind to myself as much as I do to others. I also want to stop apologising as much as I do.

That support and encouragement from others  helped me walking around Parallel London 10k, my mum completed her first 10k walk too. The experience was eye opening seeing so many people from so many walks of life wearing t-shirts with charities close to their hearts. Beforehand my anxiety made me think every worse case scenario possible, but I  got there at the end

I also had the opportunity to go to Parliament to talk for a a couple of minutes about some of my experiences. It was terrifying but an honour. I also stepped from behind my blog to do a short speech on blogging with anxiety and dyspraxia at the Dyspraxia Foundation AGM. It was lovely to meet others and I’m grateful to the ladies who work for the charity for always being there for a reassuring hug especially as any kind of speaking is a challenge for me with my social anxiety.

 On the topic of blogs I am ending the year with my blog reaching 250,000 views. Something which still seems surreal to me. Thank you so much if you've taken the time to read my blogs. It means a lot to me. Blogging helps to give me a voice, a voice which I can sometimes struggle to find in my day to life. I'm not the most confident in my writing and I hope to find the confidence to expand my blog  and open up about myself a bit more. I just hope in any way my words can help others not feel alone in their journeys.

This year my childhood idols Steps came back onto the music scene and after all of these years I got the opportunity to meet them. Their music helps me a lot.  I am very grateful for the kind words Mollie King has given me this year, they give me strength in difficult times. She always is so understanding, has time to listen and finds time to find out more. She inspires me to not give up.

I hope the year ahead is kind to you,
Take care of yourselves
Until Next time.......

Lots of Love

Friday, 3 November 2017

Anxiety, noise and firworks

Hello everyone, I hope you're well?
As it's approaching bonfire night, I thought I would write a short blog to raise a bit of awareness about anxiety and fireworks.

For some people going to a bonfire with family and friends can be a great time to spend time together, but for others who have anxiety issues surrounding loud and unpredictable noises it can be overwhelming and more challenging. It is well known to keep your pets indoors throughout this time as it can be anxiety inducing for them, but not so much about for us humans. In this day and age fireworks aren't known for just being on 5th of November or New Year's Eve they carry on quite a bit afterward's. I think organised firework displays are a great way to bring communities together and also for some help raise funds for local charitable organisations. But over the years more and more go off on constantly throughout the day and night.

For some people who have anxiety or who are noise sensitive unpredictable loud noises can make them feel on edge, overwhelmed or experience panic attacks. As someone who finds unpredictability with noise a trigger for my anxiety, I can find this time of year overwhelming myself. Anxiety can make me quite a jumpy person in relation to unpredictable situations in general, it makes me feel
on edge and I can feel panicked. It's something I'm still personally working the National Autistic Society has some really helpful information on their website about anxiety, and bonfire night which I thought I would share.

If you do find this time of year more difficult firstly you're not alone, do things your way and if you find the noise itself  difficult there's a whole range of ear plugs and headphones out there.  If you are planning on going to a display plan ahead and maybe stand back from the crowds if you find them a challenge then go closer if you feel more comfortable. If you have a friend or family member who finds fireworks difficult don't judge them, if they experience anxiety or panic attacks in that environment, be patient and calm and understand it might need time. Sometimes finding a safe place away from the situation might help. Also your pets could be in need of extra cuddles, treats and kind words.

Take care of yourselves,
Until next time....

The value of inclusion in participation

Hello everyone, long time no speak, I hope you’re all well? After a slight break from blogging, I wanted to write about something really cl...