Monday, February 29, 2016

Getting Lyrical

I am a music lover! I couldn't go a day without singing, dancing or listening to music. I love that you can find music to compliment or change your mood and it can give you a buzz where you forget about the world around you. I'm known for giving it my all singing in my car and can't help dancing in my kitchen. Sometimes I hear a piece of music and I just have to create a burlesque routine to it or dance with my veil fans, other times I daydream I'm singing it to a packed arena (even though I can't sing!). So how can music affect and help depression?

Mood Playlist and Motivation
Sometimes you need your mood to be lifted and sometimes you need to understand or explore your mood a little better. I find music really helps. I have short playlists on my phone and CD's in my car that are for chill out/relaxing time, deep meaning/ sad, upbeat, dance and just my favourite songs I enjoy. You can match the music to your mood or counteract it.

If there are songs you always turn to for certain events or feelings really listen to the lyrics. What are they saying? Does it link to your mood or circumstances? It might even answer a few questions if you feel a little lost about how you feel.

Dance, Sing and Exercise
If you love to dance or sing make a CD or playlist of your favourite songs and go for it! If you exercise you might want to accompany it with some motivational music. Whenever you hear those songs it will make you think of being energetic and lively and instantly pick you up.

Sometimes you hear a song that just describes you, your situation or that you really relate to. It just hits you and it's like the singer/songwriter completely gets you. If you ever struggle to explain how you feel to a loved one just play them the song and tell them the lyrics that really stand out to you.

It's always good to make sure you have some calm and soothing songs for relaxation. Take time to just relax and have the music on in the background. To begin with I needed white noise to help me sleep and found on Youtube a piece of music that included rainforest sounds. It really helped me switch off and concentrate on the soft sounds rather than the tinnitus side effect I had.

Music can hold memories for a lot of people. It might be happy memories or emotional memories. Sometimes I find emotional memories can be hard to think about and come to terms with but listening to the song that holds this memory can help me let it all out and focus on thinking it through. Other times I hear a song and a smile comes on my face because it reminds me of fun times and people I love.

Music Therapy
I don't have any experience of music therapy but many people attend music therapy to help with depression and anxiety. It might be something you'd be interested in and you can find out more with an internet search or speaking to your GP or psychologist.

Much love,
Becky xx

Saturday, February 27, 2016

TABOO one for the ladies

I wanted to write about something I haven't read on other blogs or forums but that I believe the ladies out there must have either come across or want to know about BUT it's a little taboo. It's the effects that depression, anxiety and stress can have on your lady bits! Yes boobies and your downstairs. So let's get personal!

Breast Pain
Breast tenderness has been linked to depression, some anti-depressants and is more likely to happen to women in their 20s. It is very uncomfortable and can be worrying when your mind plays tricks. It would start for me and last up to 2/3 days which meant I'd then start worrying if something else was wrong. If you are worried that it isn't related to depression then please see your GP but also know that it can be a symptom. Treat it as you would do with breast tenderness you have experienced with your menstrual cycle.

Thrush and depression have links also. Thrush is a Candida yeast infection and can go unnoticed in some people. If you have thrush it can have a great effect on your mood and be the underlying cause of depressed feelings and mood swings.

Vaginal Discomfort
Anxiety and stress can have an odd side effect of vaginal discomfort. The vagina is kept healthy by having a balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria but these can be affected by stress and anxiety. You can also experience cramps and discharge. It is important that if you experience this that you visit your GP or sexual health clinic to make sure that it isn't the sign of an infection, STI or other health issue.

Anxiety, stress and depression can lower your desire to have sex and your ability to enjoy sex. This can make sex painful and uncomfortable. You need to tell your partner this and explain that it is linked to your mental health and not to your relationship. Find other ways to be intimate whether it's a bath together, massage, cuddles or anything else you feel like doing!

Why did I write this post?
Because I hate the stigma attached to mental health and I hate the stigma attached to female genital health. It is a greatly important subject that people need to know about. It can be a huge worry for women when they know something isn't quite right, especially if it is a recurring issue that they can't find an answer to. I visited my gynecologist many times for unexplained reasons that they couldn't find an answer to. There were no infections or anything else a miss a part from I wasn't right! Looking back now I had these problems when I was run down and struggling mentally before I was diagnosed with depression so this links up. Don't ever be embarrassed to talk to your GP or partner about female health. It's your body, its natural and its normal!

Much love,
Becky xx

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Flower Power

I had read that having plants and flowers in your home can help with depression and anxiety. When I first tried to deal with my low mood over a year ago I started exercising, ate healthier, put air purifying plants upstairs in my home and bunches of flowers downstairs. So what is the science behind this?

Research linked flowers and plants in hospital rooms to mean patients need less pain relief, have lower blood pressure, more energy, lower pulse rates, less anxiety and feel generally in a better mood than patients in rooms with no plants or flowers. It is said that floral scents can reduce anxiety too and something less scientific.... it's lovely to buy yourself a plant or flowers or even better have them gifted to you.

I pick up flowers from my regular supermarket for about £2-£5 a bunch and they last 1-3 weeks. I pick something that I like the look, smell and colour of and place them where I can easily see them when sat watching television, eating or in the bath. You may have a favourite or flowers that hold a special memory for you. I'd suggest calm colours rather than bright and clashing and something that fits in with your room decor. Is there something that reminds you of a special place or a holiday? Something that relates to a loved one?

And if your loved one has anxiety or depression why not take them a small potted plant or a small bunch of flowers. Nothing overwhelmingly big or expensive just a little token of love.

Plants are also great for regaining responsibility by having something to nurture and care for. It doesn't have to be flowers in your home maybe a greenhouse, park, botanical garden, garden centre, windowbox or country house garden you can visit for a full day of floral scents, gorgeous scenery and a good relaxing walk or sit in a beautiful garden. I try whenever the weather is nice to eat meals in our garden too. We have bonsai trees in moss filled pots, climbing plants and tall trees nearby which make a peaceful rustling sound in the wind and look beautiful in the Autumn/Fall.  If you live in an urban area you could try window boxes and potted plants as well as plants in your home.

My favourite air purifying plants for the results in the air and for their look...
  • Aloe Vera
  • Prayer Plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Bamboo
  • Spider Plant
  • Dracaena
  • English Ivy
  • Rubber Plant
Flowers and plants I like to have in my home...
  • daffodils
  • Fairtrade roses 
  • bonsai trees (in my garden)
  • bamboo
  • prayer plant
  • lilies
  • sunflowers
  • orchids
  • tulips
  • moss
Find something you love and give it ago!

Much love,
Becky xx

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Burlesque Debut!

I wanted to share a big achievement with you... last night I performed burlesque to an audience, on stage, all by myself! This was huge for me.

I've been attending burlesque classes and other dance classes run by the group for about two years now. I've always loved the classes and the people that go there have become my friends. We're like a little burly family. 

I attended one set of classes that were to get us ready for stage performance and it ended with a show for our friends and family. I loved the class as always, performed to the girls when practising and always felt nervous but did it because I knew I wanted to get on stage one day. I finished the class and told my friends and family about the show, inviting everyone I could. I was so excited.... then I had to cancel.

Before the show I began with my depression and anxiety. I was too unwell to perform and having panic attacks. I didn't even want to go and watch the show which really isn't me. I would have done anything to see my group get on stage for the first time. I was so proud of them all and happy for them but just couldn't go. I decided that I may never get on stage. I'd eventually go back to the classes but just as a hobby and never perform.... REALLY?! So I continued to practise in my kitchen and thought I'd never get further than that. 

A few week ago I was the maid for our groups show. It was my job to set and tidy up the stage for acts and help backstage or wherever needed, I'd done it once before for them the week before my panic attacks started. I nearly cancelled then too because an hour before setting off I started choking, felt dizzy, went really hot and felt sick. I didn't realise at the time that was a panic attack. Being the maid means getting on the stage but just to tidy or place things out. 

As soon as I went in the back where everyone was getting ready I wanted to be in their sparkly little shoes! I worked on the stage. I noticed with the lighting on stage and the dark room that the audience are quite hard to see once you are up there. I didn't feel like everyone was staring and felt comfortable. I blogged about one day wanting to go for it and perform and my friend got in touch. She had her own show coming up, the one I did last night. She said I could just turn up on the night, get ready and see how I feel. I could go on whenever I wanted and I wouldn't be advertised. If I turned up and didn't go on it wouldn't be noticed by the audience or letting them down. I knew I would have let myself down though; wanting something, getting the chance and then not going for it. 

I worked through the day and felt ok. A little nervous when driving there, my head went clammy and I was a little unsettled and shaky but more naturally nervous than anxiety setting in. I got to the venue and got ready; hair, makeup, costume on and a walk about on the stage. I went into the toilets and listened to my music, miming and thinking through the act.

My friends who were performing started coming in and asking what I was doing there. As soon as I said performing they gave me a huge smile and a hug and were so supportive. We're all like that in our group and wider group. The lovely ladies who didn't know me also gave me a hug and wished me luck too. Lovely!

An amazing trio of singers opened the show, then gorgeous act number one to open the burlesque, my inspirational burlesque teacher went on second and then it was time for me. I was announced as a debut performer and my music started. I stepped out and performed. I wasn't shy or timid. I moved around and danced rather than being stuck to the spot. I interacted and looked directly at people in the audience including my mum and husband. The only two people apart from the organiser that knew I was there (my mum had told her sister though!) It felt natural and I was so chilled out about it on stage and afterwards. I'd done it! So would I do it again... HELL YEAH!!!!

So please take a leaf from my book and don't ever tell yourself you will never do something. Don't let depression, anxiety or mental illness dictate your life. It might get in the way and hold you back but please don't let it be the end of something you love!

Thank you so much for the opportunity lovely- you know who you are!

Much love,
Becky xx

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Relax With Yoga

Don't worry, you don't have to be a yogi expert to reap benefits from this post! I am definitely not. I've never been able to even touch my toes but that doesn't mean I can't do yoga. I don't attend classes but I do use some of the positions to help me relax. 

I used them a lot while I was off work and found them relaxing for a gentle stretch and a chance to be still and concentrate on my breathing. The positions I used I found on youtube. You can search 'yoga for depression', 'yoga for anxiety' or 'yoga to help you sleep' and lots of tutorials and demonstrations come up. Please make sure you use the videos made by yoga instructors and know your own limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort stop immediately.

I have poor flexibility to say I used to attend karate for 8 years but these poses are for beginners and an easier level of yoga. The one I found most relaxing was the supported inversion. You can feel the strain with your legs straight on the wall so I used to bend my knees a little. As I don't use yoga for any other purpose than to relax I find as long as the position is comfortable for me and doing it's job to allow me to be calm that I'm doing it "right".

The positions I use are...
  • child's pose
  • butterfly pose
  • supported inversion
You may find other positions work better for you that you find online or in books. Even better if you can attend a class for beginners or have a private session you can really tailor make your routine. I didn't feel comfortable to go when I was first diagnosed but I have considered it since.

I have also found swimming very relaxing and freeing. It feels great for me to be in the water and to lie on my back and float. I find it relieves tension in my body if I swim slowly and doesn't put any strain on my body. Any gentle exercise can help boost your mood and relieve stress as well as giving you a hobby to concentrate on. There are many other benefits and you can improve fitness levels, muscle strength, posture, control your weight and improve sleep patterns. 

Much love,
Becky xx

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mirror Mirror... Who Is She?

I wanted to share something with you that may be personal to myself or may be a common experience.... Have you ever experienced the inability to recognise your own reflection in the mirror? Have you seen someone looking back at you that you just don't recognise? The surprise of what you look like. The horror of drastic change. The panic of the confusion. It's not a great feeling. 

This has happened to me on quite a few occasions. It's how I know I'm struggling. I went through a stage at one point as a teenager where I'd cry but not quite understand why or not really feel anything so I used to look in the mirror while I cried. It was so hard to look at for more than a few seconds but I'd keep doing it. I've done this as an adult too. It doesn't answer any questions or help in anyway. It makes me feel more upset and ugly. That was such a weird sensation. It's like watching a disturbing movie and not understanding the plot or why you're not switching it off.

This feeling is not the same as looking in the mirror when you're a little bit rough, feeling ill or tired, it's completely different. It's like you've woken up with someone else's face on. Someone who sort of looks like you but it's not you at all. 

When I don't recognise myself I notice that I look very grey, my eyes look vacant, I look a lot older, my skin looks dull, my lips look dry and my mouth looks like it's dropped: On top of that I can't look myself in the eye for more than a few seconds without a feeling of fright and a sharp head pain or without the feeling of being very angry. I don't know why this happens. It's like my brain is so busy and tired rewiring that it can't process a reflection and the effects are showing on the outside.

It's not that I have a problem with my looks either. I do think I'm not photogenic and I know I have dark circles, my nose is a little large and my skin can look dull sometimes but I accept that is me. I can look in the mirror and at certain photo's and compliment myself and feel proud of my looks on occasions. I think that's quite average to know your face well, accept the bad and like the good. But the other face that I see in the mirror sometimes haunts me. It's like living a bad dream where you look in the mirror to see an older, poorly, ghostly, vacant version of yourself. I feel even more creeped out if I force a smile out at this stage too. That just makes me cry.

I hope if you do experience this too that you know it's a temporary reflection and the real you will shine through again. My normal me always comes back. The positive thing I got out of this experience? I really need to dig deep for something good out of this BUT I now know when I look in the mirror and I look tired or I'm ill I think "oh good it's still me." I know when I look and feel frightened and alarmed that it's a sign I'm struggling and need to prepare myself for what may come.

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, February 15, 2016

Survival Kit

As promised my 'Back to Work Survival Kit' blog is here. I can't stress enough how important it is to have yourself prepped and prepared when you first go back to work. All I wanted to do was get myself back home but that wasn't an option. So I knew if I was going to be out and about I needed to take my emergency kit with me- prepped and prepared for all eventualities!

First of all I thought what issues I had that might be a problem when I was out and what my panic attacks entailed. That was mainly dry mouth, tiredness, irritated skin, nausea, anxiety, excess sweating, aches and pains and confusion. I then looked at how I dealt with these at home and what I could take with me to deal with them else where. It does mean a bit of shopping for a few things (I bought miniatures so my bag wasn't so full and heavy) but it didn't cost more than £5 as I had most of the things already. A lot of the things people will carry with them anyway but to start with I couldn't think "keys, purse, phone and go" like I sometimes do now. It had to be Survival Kit! So here's what goes into my Anna Field handbag:

  • Purse with change, RAC card, driving license, bank card- for any emergency
  • House keys with my fav keyring on to make me smile
  • Mobile- make sure it's charged, you have credit and you have your I.C.E number saved in there (In Case of Emergency)
  • Medication- I keep my tablets in my bag but even if you don't it's good to carry the packaging or leaflet with you in case anyone needed it (accident, severe side effect, sudden illness)
  • Mirror, brush, hair ties- for when I was running late then realised my hair was a mess!
  • Body Shop 'Born Lippy' lip balm and Body Shop Honey Mania hand cream- for my irritated and dry skin
  • Body Shop Satsuma hand sanitizer- I love the fresh smell and it calms me a little, I like my hands clean when I get stressed out too
  • Baby wipes, mini Nivea Pearl and Beauty deodorant, mini Christian Lacroix Bijou perfume and a spare vest top- for the panic attack aftermath and a freshen up
  • Healthy snacks for an energy boost and so I could snack when my appetite was low
  • Painkillers- sometimes these helped my aches and pains but sometimes they didn't- don't rely on painkillers though and speak to your doctor if you need them often
  • Heart shaped worry stone- my husband bought me this
    years ago, take a little love token, mascot, special jewellry or photo with you that you can look at and feel a little happier and safer
  • Notebook and pen- keeping notes helped with my confusion and writing my thoughts down helped sometimes, it gave me something to do in the staffroom when I wasn't up for talking too
  • Bottle of water with Berroca orange in for dry mouth and an energy boost
  • Skullcandy headphones- so I could listen to my favourite songs on my break- something chilled or watch a youtube video normally home interior or tattoo vlogs
I hope this helps you get some ideas for how to feel more at ease when you're not at home.

Much love,
Becky xx

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Power of Cuddles

One of my most favourite things to do is cuddle! I love a good cuddle. A cuddle with my husband, my mum, my dog, cuddling into my duvet or pillow.... Cuddling is awesome. It makes me feel closer to someone, safer, happier, more relaxed, comfortable and warm. So I decided to look into my theory that a good cuddle makes everything seem ok again.

Cuddling releases a hormone called Oxytocin; the happy hormone. Not only does this hormone lift your mood, it also relieves pain and boosts your immune system. It's actually healthy both mentally and physically to have a good snuggle. Mental illnesses can be very physically painful too due to a number of symptoms and side effects so if cuddling is the medicine I'm down for that!

Oxytocin also helps with anxiety and stress as it makes you think more positively. Before making big stressful decisions or even little ones while you're feeling anxious it might be best to have a hug first. A big squeeze, a few deep breaths, then enjoy the cuddle before tackling what you need to do.

Cuddling helps build and strengthen relationships. Have you been pushing people away because you are stressed or due to mental illness? Go give them a hug. Actions speak so much louder than words. A cuddle can say "I'm here" "thank you" "I love you" "you're amazing". There's science behind why cuddles help build bonds due to the Oxytocin release.

Cuddling also releases Dopamine which is a hormone linked with excitement and sexual desire, as well as releasing Endorphins which are normally released after a good workout in the gym or eating chocolate, these are the 'buzz' we feel, If you are finding your intimate relationship is struggling take some time to just cuddle and reconnect.

After researching cuddling I can see why sometimes I'm so needy for a hug. When I feel anxious I need to hug someone or something. I once had a panic attack at work where someone rather lovely came over and gave me a hug. It helped so, so much! Thank you lovely lady, you know who you are. When I get nervous or scared a hug helps me feel safe again. And whenever I feel fine, happy, calm, excited, positive.... I still love a good snuggle!

So go hug it out! I'm sending you a big virtual squeeze right now :)

Much love,
Becky xx

Monday, February 08, 2016

Push, Push, Push!

Something I'm wondering today... should I push myself to do things or just sit back and let them happen?

This is a hard question for anyone with depression or anxiety. When you push yourself to do something like go back to work, continue or start a class/hobby, go to an event, etc... is it worth it? When I push myself the way I feel building up to and before is not worth it at all. I feel ill and panic and lose sleep and dread it. I then get into negative thoughts which spreads into everything I do. When I start doing it I put a front on but soon realise I'm enjoying myself and doing something I want to do. It feels a bit more worth it. When I've done it, enjoyed myself, feel I achieved something and feel proud of it then it's definitely worth it!

If you don't try you'll never know and if you let your fears or mental illness rule your life then it wins. We don't let it win do we fighters! We are the fighters and we are the winners. We fight, we fall, we get back up and we conquer it one day at a time. It's harder than thinking "I'd like to do that" and then just doing it but minds don't always allow you to think like that.

I have a hobby. I bloody love it! It makes me feel happy,excited, proud, free and brings me joy. That hobby is burlesque. I could begin to perform it in front of people. I have the means to get in there, I practise my ass off, I've performed in front of other performers in class and I will do my best. So what's stopping me? My mind! 

It tells me it's too much, I won't be able to, it's not worth the sheer panic and build up, it's not essential to life so we don't need to do it, right? Wrong! Life is about experiencing as much as you can, living it to the full, trying things and failing just so you find out whether you can do it and you have no regrets for not doing it. You never know it might be trying something, being amazing at it, getting better and it builds up and up and up. Am I going to be satisfied in my old age when I look back and my love of burlesque only ever got to practising at class in front of 5 friends or dancing in my kitchen... NO! I'll regret never doing it. I'll see how well the other girls did and how much they loved it and got from it and know I missed out.

So should I push myself? YES!

What if I fail? SO WHAT! I tried and gave it my best.
What if I chicken out? FINE! I have a mental illness and need to look after myself.
What if I enjoy it? FANTASTIC! Either do it again or savour that moment
What if I get an offer to do it again? AMAZING! Practise, prepare, take it as a compliment that I did well the first time and if I don't want to do it again that's my choice.

What have I got to lose? You lose more by not trying than you do trying and failing. And if you don't fail you gain the world! 

Be kind to yourselves and keep on pushing.

Much love,
Becky xx

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Bad Hair Day

A bad hair day can't cause depression but you can notice it starting with one if you're me. I had a week off work feeling run down and like I had a bad flu and no energy before I had a break down and realised something was really wrong.

I began to feel ill on a Friday, I remember it was my day off work and I had booked in at my hairdressers to have my hair dyed and cut. I was really looking forward to it and normally loved having my hair done. I woke up feeling fine and went to my appointment. My usual hairdresser was there, she's lovely and really chatty and makes you feel comfortable and welcome.

I sat in the chair looking at the full length mirror and after a short while felt sick, really hot and overwhelmed. I couldn't quite concentrate and my eyes kept going out of focus as if I was about to blackout. I had sharp pains in my head and between this poorly feeling I felt embarrassed and conscious. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror because what I saw scared me. I saw all my flaws. I looked really different. I began to worry that the hairdresser would be disgusted by my hair and scalp and think I was dirty and judge me even though it wasn't. My stomach started to churn and it almost felt as though I might have an accident. I managed to say "I need the toilet" and when I got in there I didn't need to go. I splashed my face with water and my breath was heavy. I felt dizzy and scared I would pass out so I unlocked the door. I couldn't look at the mirror in there either.

I went back and finished having my foils in. I had a cup of tea and read a magazine while I waited for the dye to take. I felt a lot better but I kept having twinges in my head and stomach. I wondered at first if it was a reaction to the hair dye but had never had problems before. I then started to think I was poorly and it dawned on me I might be seriously ill and not have long left to live- I know how over the top that sounds.

I had my hair rinsed and began feeling ok again. I had my hair cut and dried but kept thinking I should have told them I needed to leave. I was at the hairdressers for 3 hours and felt so strange. That night I felt better but woke a lot through the night feeling like I was choking and slept badly.

It wasn't until a couple of weeks later when I realised that this had been a panic attack. I've not had many panic attacks luckily but when I did they were horrendous. I knew that the triggers were I'd feel hot, sweat, have pains in my head and begin to breath strangely all very quickly. Then I would feel like I was dying and panic more. It felt like the end of my world. My vision blurred and I could hear internal noises like my breathing but everything else around me sounded like I was under water. The whole thing could last from as little as 5 minutes up to half an hour. The pain in my chest, breathlessness and anxious feeling could last hours and I would be exhausted after. If the panic attack was at night I would have a terrible night's sleep, bad dreams, chest pains and wake up feeling drained.

I wouldn't wish panic attacks on anyone. I hadn't found a way to control them or stop them happening but I knew when they were coming after I had 4/5 of them. I haven't had any since September. I sometimes feel anxious but don't have the panic attacks anymore. It may be that they were a temporary thing, I don't know.

I just wanted to share this with you all in case others out there are having panic attacks and wondering if they have the same symptoms as others. I haven't been back to my usual hairdressers but have started going to my friends. I'll be going tomorrow and it does make me nervous because it reminds me of that day but I'll be fine and come out with fab hair!

Much love,
Becky xx