Anxious Chloe: Brain Fog and Reality

Do you ever get that feeling in the pit of your stomach? You know, the one where your entire insides do flips? When your legs go like jelly and your heart seems to skip several beats. Your hands begin to shake or go clammy and suddenly you’re hyper aware of every movement you’re making, every single muscle.

Infact, just typing about it is making me feel a bit like that!

Most people feel like that before something nerve-wracking; an interview perhaps, or before performing in someway, or maybe before having to give a presentation. Your body is preparing itself and the adrenaline is pumping round for a ‘fight or flight’ response.

I would never dream of claiming any sort of knowledge on anxiety beyond my own, it would be incredibly arrogant of me to say so. All I can do is admit to something on here what I think is probably very obvious to a lot of people but that I never talk about in the detail I’m about to, and I’m hoping by putting down everything I feel I might begin to make some headway in tackling it. I am a very anxious person.

And I’m going to be really upfront about this – I am not diagnosed with “anxiety” as a condition. Namely because I got brave going once to the doctors to try and do something about it and pretty much got a shrug of the shoulders, and admittance that, yes, I am obviously a nervous person and that’s it. The experience was entirely unhelpful and I haven’t been back with any anxiety-like symptoms since. What if everyone feels like this and I am just a drama-queen?

I’m just going to talk about one ‘symptom’ for the moment. My biggest and most common ‘symptom’ is the feeling of not being in reality. Now, I know that makes me sound a bit like I’ve completely lost my marbles, but I’ll try and explain is as best as I can.

Imagine you’re watching a film. Perhaps in 3D if you like, and you know the type of film where you are right involved in the action and you’re so engrossed in it. It’s all you’re thinking about in that moment, and you, as the spectator of the film have practically become a part of that film. But you can’t alter it’s path, and you can’t change it. You can just watch the action happen infront of you. You’re not really there. It’s still happening out of your reach all around you.

That’s sort of how I feel in an anxious situation. Well, infact, even in a situation where I don’t even realise I’m anxious. It’s as if what’s happening infront of me isn’t really happening, as if I’ve some how disconnected a lead in my head that makes things seems real. Things seems to happen slower and as if I’m not apart of them. I become really aware of every moment, and I become really sensitive to light. Everything seems brighter, and everything seems like it could be in a  dream. I’ve lost the link to reality, or I’m in some sort of ‘brain fog’.

This shouldn’t be confused into thinking that I have actually lost touch with reality. It’s not like when you’re a little bit drunk and you think you can do all these things that don’t affect you or anyone around you. It’s not that sort of feeling. Infact, in that moment of semi-drunkenness you’re more than likely very happy and content. This is the opposite of content, this is like you’re the only one in that little world and bubble. It’s fightening, lonely and very unpleasant. I suppose a little like if you have been really dizzy and the moment between the real frightening dizziness and normality when you just feel a bit ‘funny’ and out of touch.

Some of these moments are quite predictable for me after so many years of having them. They will almost always occur when I’m somewhere unfamiliar with a lot of people around me. They will always occur on a bus; on a train; in a waiting room (of any variety, not just the dentist!); in a busy high street; in a foreign country or unfamiliar city; in a classroom or group environment. But they do also happen at home, or somewhere I’m familiar or with people I know. I suppose it helps that it has happened so often, because I always know, logically, that I’m fine and that nothing bad is actually happening. But they can feel very frightening, especially if I’m on my own. You can tell yourself all the most sensible things in the world (and I’m a very sensible, logical person) but in that moment it’s very difficult to think about anything else other than the feeling your having. Of course, the more you think about it, the longer it takes to go away. This happens to me on a regular basis, sometimes daily. And then I won’t have the feeling for a few months and then it’ll come back again.

It won’t surprise you that, given I’m posting this, I’m currently in the midst of having this feeling on a near-daily basis and have been for the past few weeks. I have no reason to currently feel anxious or worried about anything. There have been no changes in my personal life, no additional pressure in any aspect of my life, it’s just like it for the moment. But instead of letting it go unmentioned, as I have done for so many years, I thought I’d mention it. Perhaps you have your own experience and think you can offer me some advice. I’ve read some advice that you should try and engage your senses to try and bring you back to ‘reality’, focusing on what is actually going on – but as yet that’s not been successful for me, so I’m just riding it out and hoping it’ll improve.

Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him? ~Calvin and Hobbes

Things I Love: My faith

Writing about my faith makes me nervous. There we go, I said it. I don’t know it all, infact I know very little (my memory isn’t good for a start, which is hardly helpful if you’re expecting me to help out with your Old Testament answers to this weekends crossword clues that inevitably crop up). I haven’t got it all figured out. Nothing puts me off more than the thought of attending a ‘coffee morning’. I’m not a church goer. So, really, I don’t tick many of the traditional boxes.

It’s really hard, for anyone, to be typecast into a group. Whether that’s a football team, an area that you live, what level you’re educated to. It all comes with lists and expectations of what you should be according to the pre-conceptions others have of that group (or the one person they met that was a part of that group).

I think that’s why writing about my faith makes me nervous. There’s an expectation hovering in the space between what I’m writing here and where you are over there. And depending on your experiences of Christianity (or perhaps of me!), is going to depend on what you think you’re going to read from me. So, I’m going to promise honesty and my feelings. You can take them or leave them 🙂 If you want to ask anything, go right ahead. I’ll always give you an honest answer. Never be afraid to ask questions.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. That’s not to be confused with me being naive and just ‘going with it’. I think faith is very difficult in the modern world, it’s not an easy option that you just ‘fall into’ and don’t get out of. It requires work and commitment and I don’t like it when there’s an assumption because you have ‘grown up’ with faith that you haven’t had your own fair deal of difficulties and challenges. It’s not the easy option.

I would think that people born into committed religious families still have a personal choice to make (their own ‘journey’ if we’re gonna go all XFactor on it), because you could have all the support in the world, but if you don’t believe in the things your following for yourself then you’re going to struggle to convincingly live however much you might want you to.

So, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. But I can remember times when I was absolutely convinced of God. You know, like he was just there and it was as clear as day to me, like it just dawned on me that it wasn’t possible for there not to be a God. Like when someone gave a vision to me that was *so* clear and accurate to my life story (without knowing the details of my life) that it still sits with me today and makes me feel wonderful inside. Or moments where I have felt absolute and complete peace like I can’t even describe to you (which is rare for me because I am anxious by nature, so to feel peace is a BIG deal!).

My faith gives me hope in difficult situations. And although I’ve been really fortunate not to have faced anything really traumatic, I know that when the road hasn’t been entirely smooth, God has been the one thing that I can rely on.

God helps me love people. I think it’s a huge shame that Christianity seems to have the reputation for judging people. And I’m not saying that hasn’t been the case in some circumstances (perhaps you have first hand experience) but it seems strange because God loves everyone. And if that’s the case, then that’s what I’m striving for too. We’re all guilty of judgement, whether that’s because someone has bright blue hair, or a terrible dress sense or is from the wrong side of town. But, what I try and work on is recognising that I’m doing it before it lets me decide on my like/dislike for that person. Now, I am not perfect, I’m not even close to it. There’s always going to be people you don’t see eye-to-eye with and you’re always going to have good reason for not liking that ‘someone’ in your life perhaps because of the hurt they’ve caused you – I’m not diminishing your feelings about that. But I do believe in good in everyone, and giving the opportunity to see what someone has to offer before deciding that they aren’t your type of person. And showing everyone some love once in a while.

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Speaking of which – feeling loved is the best isn’t it? Knowing someones got your back in good and bad, that they love you first thing in the morning when your hair is all crazy and terrible or in the evening when you’re too exhausted to do anything other than slob out on the sofa and eat a whole packet of choccie digestives whilst watching Eastenders (oh, is that just me?). Yes, that’s love. God’s love is much the same. But a bit better. He knows everything. Your bad hair days, but also your bad thought days (you know, when you can’t help but roll your eyes at *that* person again). He’s got you covered in His love whether you woke up this morning thanking him for another day, or whether this is the first time you’ve thought about him this week. And in a world where love is, mainly, conditional, that unconditional love blows my mind, and gives me a tiny bit more confidence in myself to persevere with the day ahead. There’s a song which has these lines in it: “There is nothing I can do to make you love me more, There is nothing I can do to make you love me less” and I just think that’s just the best couple of lines to say to myself over and over if I’m not feeling very lovable. For me, my faith is about love. Love for God, love from God and love for others in the best way that I can. And that is why I love it.

And it’s out of God’s love that we arrive at Easter this weekend. Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

Things I Love: Guinea Pigs

What do you know about Guinea Pigs? The amount of people who think a Guinea Pig is a hamster, or a rat, amazes me. There are plenty of reasons to love Guinea Pigs, so here are a few of mine:

  1. They are gentle and sweet animals. Guinea pigs are often thought of as excellent pets for children because they aren’t vicious by nature. Rarely do you come across a guinea pig that bites. They are also nervous creatures by nature and although that has challenges of its own, it means when you do earn their trust it’s all the more special. They also are content to just ‘sit’, which makes them excellent lap pets.
  2. Those Guinea Pig squeaks! Is there anything more satisfying than stepping out into the back garden to a chorus of guinea pig squeaking. When I had 2 guinea pigs the sound was amazing. Here’s a quick video demo I pinched from Youtube incase you have no idea what I’m referring to. Clicky Also – isn’t that the sweetest little pig?!
  3. OK, so they aren’t the most intelligent of creatures, it’s got to be said. But that definitely adds a bit of charm to them. They’ll sit on their food, stand on one another and generally act a little gormless. And that’s hilarious.
  4. Which makes it all the more impressive that you can teach them to do tricks too. Enough repetition and your guinea pig could also do a circle to get a treat (this is the only trick I managed to teach mine, but both me and my pig are quite proud of it!)
  5. They live for a good amount of time. Hamsters are lovely pets with massive personalities, but you just get used to them and their ways and, unfortunately, it’s the end of their life. Guinea pigs live an average of 5-7 years so there’s plenty of time to get to know them and their ways.

Of course, this post couldn’t be complete without a bit of picspam – sorry!

Going a Month Without Social Media

30 Days ago I created a Social Media folder entitled “NO!” (imaginative, right?) on my phone and went through the painstaking task of turning off all notification settings (which was actually waaay more complicated than it sounds) for the following apps: Facebook, Facebook messenger, Twitter, Tumblr, Whatsapp and Instagram. 30 days later, I’m pleased to say that I am still alive and breathing and that NOTHING BAD HAPPENED.

Here’s a quick overview of my thoughts on it (if you want more details you can go back and read my various blog posts over the month) and why I think everyone should give it a go.

I’m not going to lie, there was a sense of WHAT AM I DOING?! the evening before I turned everything off. I remember it quite well. I’d worked until 10pm and there was a thought of “right I have 2 hours to do everything I want to do until it must go off”. And at midnight, it did. My favourite parting message sent a few moments before ‘the big switch off’ (oooh, it’s like Christmas lights) is below:

I quickly learnt (as in within the first hour of being awake) that distraction was going to be the main tool in getting me through the first few days. And it was, whether that was work or excessive house cleaning it was really all I had. I’d pick up my phone and it simply had nothing to offer me (or so I thought). I also spent the first few days with an unusual interest in listening to the radio, which is not usually my thing unless on a car journey. I think there was a need to break a habit, and the habit was, to fill every second doing ‘something’. Even if that something was scrolling, or checking or refreshing a feed. After a few days, the interest in radio went, and perhaps that was when I realised that it was OK to eat breakfast and not do something else at the same time.

A great distraction tool has been this blog. I have kept a blog for a while now but you’ll notice its use has been few and far between over the years. Infact I’ve posted more this March than I did in 2013, 2014 and 2016 (2015 must have been a good blogging year for me!). Even better is that I’m reasonably happy with the content. Blogging is something I’d love to continue and I hope you stick around once this is over to see what happens next. I’ve never been so productive in writing and writing is something I really enjoy.

Spend some time with just yourself and your thoughts and nothing to do. How else will you learn who you are?

Lauren Graham “Talking As Fast As I Can”

Moving on from the first week and things shifted quite quickly. I posted that I wasn’t sure how long it takes to break a habit ( I can’t find the post now, but it’s there somewhere), but I think the habit of checking and scrolling was probably completely broken by the end of the first week. However that didn’t stop for the next 2 weeks there being times when I thought “I’d share this on social media”, whether it was a funny thought, or going to see a film. But the feeling quickly passed and I just moved on with my day. As I’ve said elsewhere, the stuff that I really wanted to share I’ve shared with the ‘right’ people and because I’m telling just that one person, I’m getting a better response.

After 3 weeks I  ‘re-joined’ some of the fringes of my Social Media – Instagram, Tumblr, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. These apps aren’t a big time zap for me, the former 2 I rarely opened prior to the social media break and the latter 2 are literally messaging services. Plus, they’ll undoubtedly help my phone bill (cos you know, you have to pay extra for photo messages, and sometimes you need photos to explain your point thoroughly). You can say that’s cheating if you like, but as I said at the beginning of the process this wasn’t about keeping to rules, for me it was about changing a habit that I wasn’t sure I liked and having proven to myself I could do it I was content to return to these apps.

There’s a lot of thought that social media has a negative impact on our lives. That we compare ourselves through the snippets we see from others highlights on social media feeds. I’d love to round up this post by saying that this experience has changed me and made me realise how much I was comparing myself to others and now I’m much more self-confident as a result. The reality of it is, that I never have found that as a problem with social media for myself personally. I’m fairly content with what I’m doing and it’s nice to see when other people are doing well. And we all know that social media shows us only what they want to share, and not all the everyday stuff in between that we all have. The reality for me is that I can see that I don’t need social media, I’m opting to have it. And when I return tomorrow it’ll be with a few changed settings to try and stop myself from being drawn back in to it in quite the same way. It’ll be with a smaller amount of people I’m following on Twitter, because I’ve accumulated so many people over the years.

I suppose one thing I thought of yesterday was “What’s it going to be like to go back?” “Did anyone notice I was gone?” But I quickly talked myself out of that mindset and realised that it doesn’t really matter if they did or they didn’t, because those that mattered stayed in touch anyway. I’m just trying not to get a serious case of ‘notification angst’ over that little red number that will pop up when I first sign in. Because things like that shouldn’t matter. I’d rather appear on Facebook and Twitter to 2 notifications that mean something (like someone actually wrote a nice messge on my wall) that 2000 notifications of someone who’s uploaded a photo that I don’t really care about (no offence, I’m sure your photos are great).

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I’d encourage anyone to do a social media detox, even if it’s just for a weekend to see just how much time your spending on the sites. I understand there’s apps that can limit your time on them too (I might give those a go) if you think you’re over doing it. But all in all, I will see you all tomorrow behind my little profile picture. Thank you to those that have stayed in touch, this could have been a very different challenge if you’d all abandoned me. Thank you for reading this blog and for the emails, letters, texts they all mean the world to me! #soppy (gotta get my # practice in again)

See you tomorrow!

Things I Love

Can you guess them all?

I’ve been dabbling with this idea of Bullet Journalling for some time (first thinking about it last year when I was looking for a new diary for the new year). Anyway, at the start of this week I took the plunge, and whilst I’m still very new and enthusastic about it (as I am about a lot of things when I start), I’m beginning to already see how it is morphing into what I need it to be (which is essentially more of a journal element than a forward planner). The idea of keeping *everything* in one place really appeals to me, instead of scattering what I need to do across my phone and diary and sometimes random notebooks. This will hold everything – I hope!

Anyway, as I was *so* productive yesterday doing odd jobs on my day off, I have myself a free day today (and a day where I’m restricted to the house waiting for the gas engineer to appear) I got a bit creative by my standards gaining some inspiration from google imaging some other peoples Bullet Journals. Those that do know me well and have known me for some time will know that my worst subjects at school were art, textiles, CDT etc. I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. But I do like to do random scribbles when bored on a notebook.

So, I created myself a ‘Things I Love’ page in my new journal (you know just incase I forget what I like) and whilst at first I couldn’t think of much I loved, it filled up fairly quickly. I still have some space to add some bits when they come to me.

This will be a bit of a blog series for a little while, so if you want to know more about why I love what I love, look out for the posts which will come soon, which will be linked below when they’re ready.

From top left:

Musicals

James

Faith

Quotes

Staying in Bed

Giraffe – favourite animal

Disney

Hugs and Kisses

Countryside – nothing better than a countryside walk

Photo-taking

Camping

Sunrises and Sunsets

Writing

Quiet times

Blogging – that’s where you are right now

TV – as if I needed to mention it

Kindness – witnessing it, receiving it, giving it

Sound of waves – so calming and relaxing

Tea – “builders, strong enough to stand a spoon up in”

Guinea Pigs – you have no idea how long it took me to get that looking like a guinea pig

Receiving letters – but not bills!

Getting stuff done – YES productivity!

If you’re interested in what Bullet Journalling is you can see view this video by the creator who takes you through the basics and his original intention for it. Although as I said earlier, mines probably morphing into more of a journal than the intended bullet system.

Day 25 of Social Media Detox

5 Days left of this social media break/hiatus/detox (I still haven’t really settled on a name for it yet) and I’m beginning to feel excited to get back, but with some perspective on how much time I was wasting and how much was I really interested ine veryone elses lives. There are a few things I want to take back to me from this detox:

  1. All things in moderation. You know, like chocolate. It’s yummy, but too much of it and it’s not going to do you much good and make you feel yuck. I think social media is the same, too much and you’re gonna feel all yucky.
  2. Don’t forget reality. There’s a whole world above your iPhone when you look up from it. Whether that’s travelling and looking at the scenery around you, or meeting someones eye instead of burying your head. Look up!
  3. Save the important stuff for those that matter. I haven’t shared some things that I might naturally share on Facebook or Twitter. But, in the main, I’ve shared them with people that might actually care. Random thoughts with my husband, TV talk with my TV buddies, actually asking someone one on one how they are or telling someone that actually cares that my head/back/leg/stomach hurts (everyone loves a moaner!) and not telling the world. They give me more of their attention because it’s actually not out there for everyone to respond to. And that’s nice, and that sort of communication actually matters more than a ‘thumbs up’.
  4. Social media keeps me in the loop. I am so far out of the loop now that I don’t really care, but I have missed some news/events both personally and wider afield. So, yeah, I definitely need social media in my life to keep uptodate.
  5. De-clutter. I’m not feeling the need to delete everyone off my social media pages, but there are some people that, realistically, I don’t need to follow. Not so much on Facebook, but on the wider social media outlets (Twitter, Instagram etc). I need a bit of a spring clean. Also, I need a spring clean on my notification settings. I’ve loved the quietness of my phone and not seeing those little red dots (apart from next to App Store for any updates required – they’ve still plagued me). So, I’m thinking about stepping back into social media but without the notifications. Then my visits are intentional.

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In the last 2 days I’ve ‘switched on’ (so to speak) Instagram, Tumblr and Whatsapp. These are  apps that I have never had a real problem with because they don’t really interest me all that much from an aimless scrolling point of view. It’s been nice to sit on the outside of social media and catchup with a few people. So if you see me around, be sure to say hi. Facebook Messenger is also going ‘on’ today, as really, it’s an extension of a text message service and I am so happy with how I’ve done and how far I’ve come that I don’t really feel that I need to detox any more. But for the sake of reaching the end Twitter and Facebook will remain off for the full 30 days.

Hope you have enjoyed the peace and quiet from my corner of the internet. I’m well aware that I have blogged less over the last couple of weeks too (sorry!). Partly because I’ve had a lot on at work and partly because if I can’t say anything interesting, then why say anything at all?

See you all very soon!