Living with OCD

I’m insecure about my hands.

It seems a strange thing to be insecure about, but it’s the only visible sign of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), a condition I’ve struggled with since middle school.

I’ve never spoken about it before, mainly because I was in denial for a long time. I was ashamed to admit I was struggling with it. But seeing as it’s #WorldMentalHealthDay, it makes sense to share.

Part of the reason I’ve never spoken about this is because I never thought my OCD was ‘that bad’. I would often shrug off comments from family or friends about how sore my hands looked.

At one point, I thought it was completely normal to wash your hands over 40 times a day. I was functioning, so therefore it was all fine. 

OCD is a highly misunderstood condition. It is estimated 12 out of every 1,000 people in the U.K. will be diagnosed with it. And it’s often incorrectly used to describe someone who likes to organise or keep their house extra tidy.

Comments like “I need things to be organised so I guess I’m a bit OCD” probably haven’t helped when it comes to those misconceptions, especially when it’s said online for everyone to see. 

If you have OCD, you’ll usually experience frequent obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. The obsession is the thought, and the compulsion is the behaviour which often follows. 

The singer George Ezra recently spoke on a BBC podcast about being diagnosed with ‘Pure O’ which helped to raise awareness. It’s a type of OCD in which you struggle with the intrusive thoughts, but not the compulsive behaviours.

I remember first struggling with the obsessive thoughts when I was twelve-years-old.

My brain was like white noise on a broken television, constantly buzzing with irrational thoughts and theories. That’s one of the worst parts about OCD. You can’t really escape it.

Most of the time you know you’re being completely irrational, yet you still need to act on the compulsion, just in case it becomes a reality. 

I checked doors a certain amount of times to make sure they were definitely locked, or placed towels between clothes in the washing basket so they wouldn’t become contaminated.

I appeared to ‘grow out of it’ after a few years, but it’s come back under a different disguise during times of stress or uncertainty, sometimes noticeable and sometimes more covert.

However, over the last seven years it’s become all encompassing, tainting many memories or moments with a irrational thought or fear.

It showed up like a long lost relative at an awkward birthday party after I lost my younger brother Elliot in May 2013.

Looking back, it probably made sense. It was a way to maintain control during a point in my life I felt I didn’t have any control at all.

I felt like everything was no longer within my power. I couldn’t change what had just happened to my family, and the world seemed so fragile and unpredictable because of this. Metaphorically, I had lost control of the wheel and didn’t have a clue where I was going.

The compulsions have morphed over the years, but it’s main focus is the fear of contamination.

At first it was the thought of catching a disease from surfaces or public places, especially on public transport to and from work.

Then it became an obsession with touching chemicals or cleaning products. Could chemicals have contaminated my skin? Could they be sitting on my clothes? When I eat, could that chemical have got into my food poisoned me?

If I saw a stain on the street, I’d have to walk around it and get to the nearest toilet to wash my hands. This stain could have been left by a chemical, so I needed to disinfect myself immediately.

Despite the fact my hands were red raw, I’d still continue to scrub them like I was surgeon about to go into surgery. My hands were embarrassingly sore and cracked, but it was worth it to know I hadn’t harmed myself or anyone else I cared about.

I’ve wasted a lot of money over the years. I’d buy something in the shop but if I felt it had been contaminated, I’d have to replace it.

Clothes, bags and shoes were sent to the charity shop. Or worse, thrown away for no reason other than the fact they might have been touched by some unknown chemical or liquid. 

In 2018, I decided to get some counselling and asked for a referral with my GP. I was put on a dose of anti-depressants to help with my symptoms, and took these for a year before I started to feel better and less anxious.

The OCD, although not cured, was manageable. I didn’t feel the same level of panic at the idea someone might have touched bleach or cleaning fluid before shaking my hand or hugging me.

But then, COVID-19 hit.

Part of the treatment for OCD is accepting your thoughts are irrational, and therefore, don’t need to be acted on. Yet during the pandemic, those irrational fears were suddenly reality for many.

People with the condition went from being told washing your hands 50 times a day was unhealthy, to the Government encouraging us to regularly wash our hands to prevent the spread of a deadly and unknown virus.

The fear of bringing an unknown disease into your house and contaminating your family became a real prospect, and one you couldn’t just rationalise with a round of CBT and mindfulness.

The first few months of lockdown included daily de-contamination. The cupboards, kitchen surfaces, door handles, and TV remotes were regular dosed in Dettol spray (other anti-bacterial sprays are available), and my phone was so clean you could have literally eaten from it.

But after a while, the fear and worry began to fade. I won’t say it’s gone completely, I’m still a bit nervous on public transport and if someone gets too close to me in a queue I get a bit agitated like one of those grumpy chihuahuas when you put your hand in their face, but it doesn’t occupy my every thought like it did at the start of the year.

However, COVID did make me realise I couldn’t continue to allow OCD control over my life. It had become a toxic friend, feeding me lies and making me believe my compulsions were protecting me.

The fact is, a life with OCD isn’t really a life. 

It’s a prison in your own mind. It makes your life smaller and smaller until you feel you’re living in a sealed Tupperware box. You can see the outside world, but you’re not living in it, consumed by your own fear and irrational thoughts.

Slowly and surely, I’m now getting the help I need to tackle it. And feeling a lot better for it.

For a long time I’ve been ashamed of my OCD. I’d much rather tell someone I was feeling tired or just in a bad mood then admit I was battling with a constant stream of obsessive thoughts.

I’d rather cover my hands with gloves then let anyone see how sore they were by the constant hand washing I was putting them through.

It made sense to keep it to myself for as long as possible, but if talking about it helps one person who might be struggling, it’s worth it.

Thankfully, OCD has become a lot less of a taboo subject in the last few years.

I’ve seen lots of people sharing Tik Tok videos about their compulsive thoughts and how they’ve dealt with them. When you know you aren’t alone in how you feel, it makes it a lot easier to reach out and ask for professional support and help.

So if you’re struggling with OCD symptoms, please don’t wait so long to get help like I did. It can be debilitating if you aren’t getting help.

And don’t be ashamed to talk about it. You don’t know who else might be going through the same struggle right now 

Resources:

The UK’s Largest OCD Charity | OCD Action

OCD-UK | A national OCD charity, run by, and for people with lived experience of OCD

Self-care for OCD | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems | Mind, the mental health charity – help for mental health problems

The Inbetweeners of Mental Health

The ‘inbetweeners’ of mental health. They’re young people in the transition stage between childhood and adult mental health services. It is the point in which an existing or newly referred patient (over the age of 16 or 18) is transferred to adult services.

The UK’s leading charity in improving young people’s mental health services, YoungMinds, is currently campaigning to improve transition care from child and adolescent mental health services to adult services, preventing young people from getting ‘lost in the system’.

And there are many who are being left in the dark when it comes to receiving the support they need from mental health services.

Did you know that when young people reach the age of 16 or 17, they are no longer eligible for support from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service)?

But more worrying is that they are often much too young or do not meet the strict criteria to be referred to AMHS (Adult Mental Health Services) as they may be classed as ‘not ill enough’.

So where does that leave the ‘inbetweeners’?

It puts them in a position where, ultimately, they are not able to access any of the services that could help them on their way to recovery. This is a dangerous position to be in for any young person suffering from mental illness.

So why do these issues occur exactly? And what could be done to change them?

First of all, the criteria for support through AMHS is very different to that of CAMHS. AMHS point of entry for treatment is a lot more difficult to meet than CAMHS in regards to the severity of the individual’s mental health. For example, AMHS will often only intervene when a young person has reached a crisis point or are deemed as a danger to themselves or others while those under 16 will often be referred to CAMHS before their illness advances to such stages.

As mentioned in my previous blog, this is where early intervention is key and can not only save a young person’s life but would prevent a young person from having to access more advanced mental health services (such as inpatient facilities) at a later age. If these services and resources are offered to a young person as soon as issues surface, they are able to better equip themselves with the techniques or methods they need to prevent a relapse in their mental health in the future.

This current gap in young people’s mental health care is very worrying and an issue many may not be aware of unless they themselves have tried to gain access. Young people who are no longer able to access CAMHS are waiting long periods of time to reach the correct age for AMSH services, which can’t start until the individual reaches 18.

This huge gap and subsequently, further delays in referral can mean many young people ‘give up’ on transitioning to adult services and therefore never get the treatment they need, having a huge effect on their future mental wellbeing with potentially dangerous consequences. Young people are in essence ’disappearing’ from these services and falling off the radar.

There is also the added funding stress on the NHS, with services in particular areas receiving less funding in mental health services than others, meaning fewer funds for each patient and therefore a lower referral rate. There is a variation from county to county as to what age is classed as eligible for transfer to adult services also. For example, a 16-year-old may transfer to AMHS if they are no longer within full-time education. If they are still in education, they will often not be transferred until they are 18 years of age, showing a contradiction between counties within the NHS.

These young people are being passed from pillar to post. A lack of communication is also present between the two services. Neither CAMHS nor AMHS appears to be making the effort to work in line with each other. This leads to information not being passed between the two mental health services and therefore, many young people will have to undergo another assessment before entering treatment. Understandably, this can also be quite traumatic for a young person.

These services need to provide continuity and routine for already venerable young people.

Between the ages of 16 to 18, young people with mental health are probably at their most venerable. They are often making important decisions about their education. Should they stay for further education or apply for an apprenticeship?

They will often have to make more intense life decisions about relationships and friendships as well.

So why, at their most venerable, are they being turned away from the support they need more than ever?

It’s a frustrating and worrying time for both young people and parents when they are left in this limbo period, often feeling as though their concerns are not being heard or ‘don’t matter’.

The Government invested £54 million in improving young people’s mental health services between 2011 and 2015. Yet young people are still not getting access to the services they need.

Have you or your child experienced the gap in services? How do you think the NHS could improve on this?

Leave me a comment!

Resources: 

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/children-and-young-people/

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/29/chilld-and-adolescent-mental-health-service-failing-children

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/about-us/what-are-we-doing/children-and-young-people

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/

Georgia 

Mental health and young people: Is there a lack of support?

CentreForum, the independent think-tank, published a report which revealed that nearly a quarter of children and teenagers on average are turned away by mental health services after being referred by their GP’s, teachers, or others.

CentreForum found that this was due to services having ‘high thresholds’ for access to their services, revealed after analysis of the service’s eligibility criteria.

In the report, CentreForum stated that these high thresholds for treatment eligibility prevent one of the most effective forms of mental health treatment for young people- early intervention.

It was also found that young people were waiting for prolonged periods of time to access treatment with the average of the longest waiting times being almost 10 months between the first GP/school referral and the beginning of their treatment. This, along with a lack of funding for mental health services in certain areas of the UK shows a worrying escalation in the support offered to young people suffering from mental illness.

This report has been released in the same week that a UK bereavement charity pushed for a full investigation by the Government into the way deaths of young people in mental health units are recorded. An inquest suggested that nine young people had died within inpatient mental health facilities since 2010.

This only solidifies that there is a considerable lack of support for young people suffering from mental illness.

Early intervention is key.

Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses suffered by children and teenagers will often be present at a young age. Certain behavior such as a change in sleeping patterns, irritability, loss of interest in certain activities, and withdrawal from socialisation can often be clear indications of a young person who is carrying the black dog. Some people may question whether this is just the behaviour of a typical teenager. But this behaviour will often extend to prolonged periods of time with little to no change in mood.

This will often affect a young person’s school or college life, resulting in low grades, bad behaviour, or low attendance. These warning signs should be a clear indication that further investigation is needed.

Intervening as soon as a problem is spotted can allow schools to offer the right support and advice for the affected young person as soon as possible. All too often, a young person who has suffered from mental illness will have gone throughout their school life with little to no mental wellbeing support. I know of quite a few young adults who suffer from depression or anxiety and have done from a young age, yet never had anyone listen to their issues or offer support which could have allowed them to receive the treatment they needed much earlier.

Is it a lack of funding? Or a higher demand?

The reality is that figures show funding levels for NHS mental health care in England have dropped by 2 percent in recent years. This lack of funding leads to long waiting lists and less accessibility to the services, which are desperately needed to prevent the potential suicide and self-harm of young people. It also puts a strain on charities that rely solely on donations to provide young people support such as Samaritans and Child Line.

There is also a higher demand for these services due to the rise in mental illness in young people. Statistics by YoungMinds.org.uk show that young people between the ages of 15 to 16 with depression doubled between the 1980s and the 2000s, showing there is a constant increase in the number of young people being diagnosed with mental health issues. This could be due to a lack of knowledge in previous years or maybe just the way our society has changed its views on mental health. Regardless of what has caused this higher demand for services, these resources need to be available to prevent an increase in suicide levels in adulthood as well as self-harm in young people, which is believed to affect 13 percent of children and teenagers between the ages of 11 to 16.

We shouldn’t have to lose a young person due to a lack of support and funding for life-saving services.

If you have been affected by the topics discussed in this post, please contact the following organisations for support:

Mind 

Young Minds 

Parents or teachers in Bedfordshire.

Georgia OX

 

Top 5 Apps for Managing Anxiety

Calm

Free

This mindfulness meditation app is a great introduction for beginners of meditation techniques. It’s a popular app, which allows for guided meditation programs alongside the peaceful background noise of your choosing.

Features include:

A personal profile.

This includes a calendar to track your recent meditation sessions and compare your progression.

Customisable scenes for your background noise.

There are a few that come as default on the app, but you can download more depending on what you find most relaxing. All are free. This is a newer update, which was added so that you can whittle down your favourite scenes, and access them easily from your home page without flicking through a number of scenes before you find the one that works best for you.

Guided Meditation

If you choose to use guided meditation, you can pick a specific program. The default one is called 7 Days of Calm. Using the app for seven consecutive days will allow you to see any changes in your mood and find out if this app works for you.

There are also two default-guided meditations for the app. These are Calm and Body Scan. If you pay for Calm Pro, either monthly or annually, you can access meditation for specific issues or areas of your life you wish to improve. These include problems with sleep, concentration, commuting, and confidence.

Timer

It allows you to have control over how long your meditation sessions last. They can last from 1 minute up to 240 minutes. You also have the option to change the sound that plays when your session has ended (so don’t pick anything that sounds like an alarm bell or it may wake you abruptly!)

Panic Attack Aid (P.A.A)

£2.99

A helpful app for anyone who suffers from Panic Attack Disorder or frequent panic attacks with his or her anxiety. This app features a number of activities to ease symptoms during a panic attack and calm the mind.

These include:

A Breathing Exercise

This uses the movement of a circle to regulate and slow breathing. We often over breath during a panic attack which causes hyperventilation. This exercise allows you to relax your breathing and also gives positive, calming mantras to read and repeat to yourself.

Reassurance

This part of the app includes explanations for symptoms of panic attacks, helping to reassure your racing mind and calm your thoughts. The reassuring explanations are also tailored to your location.

Distraction Exercises

This is my favourite section of the app. This section features exercises and games, which should allow you to focus your mind and therefore, be distracted from your panic attack.

MindShift

Free

This app gives some great insight into anxiety and is laid out like a journal.

This app includes strategies for most anxiety disorders (including Social Anxiety) but would also be helpful for those looking for tools to manage:

  • Test Anxiety (Driving test or exams)
  • Performance Anxiety
  • General Worry and Panic
  • Dealing with Conflict

Its features include:

Anxiety 101

These are clear explanations to why we suffer from anxiety and why it makes us react the way we do (for example, it explains what the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is as well as where our anxiety comes from)

This feature is helpful for anyone who wants more insight into anxiety and may not have had the chance to do his or her own research yet. It is easily explained and to the point.

Situations

This allows you to address situations you would like help with such as ‘taking charge of panic’.

Check Yourself

It allows you to recognise what issues you may have with your anxiety and how it can affect you.

Thinking Right

It allows you to identify more positive and helpful thoughts, which you can favourite, making them more easily accessible from the main page.

Chill Out Tools which include:

Relaxation Exercises (Calm Breathing and ‘Tense and Release’ for tension caused by Anxiety)

Visualization (Mental Vacation)

Mindfulness strategies (Body Scan and Mindful Breathing)

Active Steps

Gives you strategies you can use in everyday life to overcome your anxiety or panic attacks. These include exposure and coping techniques.

The app also has an inspiration section, which gives you a selection of positive quotes to reflect upon and read when needed.

Anxiety UK

Free

The charity, which helps to support people with Anxiety Disorders, has a very helpful app for those looking for advice from other people diagnosed with anxiety.

It allows you to take a questionnaire to better understand what may be causing your anxiety. I do recommend that people visit their GP before self-diagnosing though to make sure they are not suffering from other medical issues.

You can hear helpful tips from other members of the Anxiety UK community as well as professionals in the mental health sector as well as create your own tips for other users.

This app also includes some links for more information on all anxiety disorders as well as personal experiences from members of the charity.

Pacifica

Free

This app allows you to track your mood as well as your health. This is a helpful way to check how your daily activities may be affecting your mental health such as your diet, water intake, and exercise.

You can also check your progress through a graph to check how your mood changes according to changes in your daily activities and using the app’s features.

Each day you can update the app with your mood. The app will then give you access to a selection of activates which could improve your mood and help you manage your stress or anxiety.

These include:

  • Meditations
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Daily Challenges (Small, achievable goals for that day)
  • Thoughts Journal
  • Community (discussions by other app users)

*Not SPR

The Facts About GAD

When you wake up every morning, you feel sick to the very pit of your stomach.

Your appetite is dwindled, with even your favourite foods no longer attracting your attention.

When you stand you feel dizzy. Your head often feels heavy and your legs like jelly, barely holding you up.

You cry all the time and constantly feel as though you are in one of those haunted house attractions, waiting for an actor dressed as some grizzly creature to jump out at you from behind the next wall.

You are living on the edge but you aren’t any racing fast cars. This adrenaline is certainly not the same as when you’re queuing for the biggest roller coaster at Alton Towers either. It’s always there. And you don’t really know why.

This is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, also known as GAD.

GAD is a physiological disorder that is often diagnosed in people who suffer from excessive or unreasonable anxiety within everyday life. This level of ‘extreme worry’ can be extremely debilitating and disruptive to an individual’s life.

Everybody at one stage in their lives will suffer from Anxiety about certain aspects of their life. This can include worries about school or a job, a relationship, and finances. But when that worry consumes a person to the point of causing them ill health and prevents them from living a healthy, happy life, it is often Generalised Anxiety Disorder that is orchestrating it.

You may just think you are ill or stressed out.

When I was diagnosed with GAD a few years back I just thought I had the flu but anxiety can make you feel like you are unwell.

So I thought some bite-size information on GAD might help a few people looking for information.

 So, what causes GAD?

 Abnormal neurotransmitter levels within our brain are the reason for many anxiety disorders. They cause the brain to behave inappropriately as they control the nervous system. Neurotransmitters affect our mood, our concentration as well as our sleep and weight, and when their levels are unbalanced, they can cause the number of anxiety-related symptoms.

When it all boils down to it, our Brain Chemistry is the prime reason for Anxiety and Stress-related illness.

But of course, Anxiety can be triggered or caused by a number of different factors. These can include:

Trauma

Stress

Side effects of certain medications

Genetics

Medical Conditions (This is why you should always have your GP diagnose Anxiety rather than assume that is what you have, just to make sure you are not suffering from a medical illness)

What are the symptoms of GAD?

There are a number of mental symptoms, which will lead to the diagnosis of GAD.

These, of course, will include excessive worry and anxious thoughts.

But many people find themselves confused by the other symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Here I’ll explain the science behind the most common GAD symptoms.

Headaches

An anxiety headache will most likely be caused by muscle tension. We have a number of different muscles not only in our head but our neck that we tense when anxious or under stress. This muscle tension can lead to muscle fatigue and aches. Your headache may also be caused by dehydration, as when we are suffering from anxiety, we tend to forget to stay hydrated and healthy.

High levels of stress and anxiety can also cause migraines. Remember to take the time to look after your health and keep hydrated! You can also use techniques such as mindfulness meditation to relax, relieving headaches caused by tension and stress.

Nausea/Digestive Upsets (includes Acid Reflux, IBS, etc)

High-stress biology will cause the production of extra stomach acid as well as tension within the stomach muscles, which can throw your digestive system out of check and balance.

You can deal with this by eating little and often. You could also try taking a probiotic to maintain healthy bacteria within your digestive system.

Dizziness and Shaking

These symptoms are often caused by hyperventilation. People with anxiety will commonly over breath which means they will take into much oxygen. This is also common with panic attacks. The best way to deal with this is to take deep, slow breaths in through the nose and slowly breathe out through pursed lips as though you are blowing a dandelion. This will regulate your breaths and help you to calm down, therefore stopping you over-breathing.

Depersonalization

This is often described as being in a dream-like state. People with GAD will often feel detached from their own thoughts and wonder if they are going insane. This is because the anxiety is causing an erratic nervous system. Using breathing techniques and grounding (I’ll do a blog post all about this) will really help you to relax and have a calmer mindset.

Easily tired/Insomnia

With anxiety, our brain is always on high alert and acts inappropriately to every day worries. The best way to describe it is by watching Horror films constantly. Your brain and nerves are on edge like some crazed, masked man called Mike Myers are going to jump out and chase you down the street. Because of this, people will anxiety disorders like GAD will feel emotionally exhausted. They may also find it hard to keep a regular sleep pattern or ‘wind down’, in turn leading to Insomnia.

Check my blog post on Insomnia to learn more about this and how to better deal with sleep disorders.

Other symptoms of GAD can include;

General Tension

Difficulty concentrating

Irritability

Being easily startled.

These are all caused by high-stress biology.

If you or someone you know is suffering from GAD, share this post and encourage them to see their GP for a general health check and a proper diagnosis. This will also allow you to access various services, which could help you to deal with the disorder.

I really hope this blog post has helped anyone looking for more information and insight on GAD or anxiety in general.

5 Things I’d Tell My Teenage-Self

Growing up is never easy.

It’s commonplace to find your teenage years engulfed by angst and raging hormones.

Most people will remember those years fondly as they mature into relatively civilised adults. And some may do all they can to avoid reminiscing of such times. But you’ll almost certainly be who you are today thanks to your time as a teen.

It moulds you into who you are today. Every experience, good or bad, will have taught you a valuable lesson in life. And for that, we should always be grateful even if we wouldn’t necessarily choose to go back and do it all again.

As a 21-year-old, I understand I still have a lot more to learn in life.

But I also think I’ve changed a great deal since my years as an angry, moody and undoubtedly irritating teen.

There are a lot of things I feel I would have benefited from if someone had sat me down and told me about them way back when. And hopefully, a lot of you will be able to relate to it when you think back to your younger selves.

So, here you go, 5 things I’d tell my past self if I knew what I’ve learnt today.

Stand up for yourself.

Sometimes you can be a bit of a pushover. Remember, only you have the power to allow other people to belittle you. If you speak up and let your voice be heard, people will understand you mean business!

That doesn’t mean you have to be rude or obnoxious, though. Just don’t allow other people to speak down to you or make you feel less of a person than you are. Bullies prey on the venerable. Don’t give them the opportunity to upset you or stop you foing the things you love.

Be more confident!

Put your name down for school council! Sign up for drama classes! Start up a band!

Do all the things you are worried you’ll be judged for because other people’s opinion of you is none of your business.

At the end of the day, the only emotion you’ll feel will be regret for the missed opportunities you had a school. So what if people talk. Let them talk all. The only thing that matters is that you are happy and doing all the things you want to do!

STOP dyeing your hair black!

No seriously stop. I get you are going through the ‘emo’ stage and you think it’s really alternative and edgy, but you just look ill. The thick black eyeliner is also a no go zone. You look like you haven’t slept. Even My Chemical Romance would ask if you were OK.

Punky Fish isn’t the only shop in the world!

Let’s be honest. It’s not even real punk fashion. That furry purple jumper look’s like you’ve just skinned the Cookie Monster’s girlfriend. Also, Beetle Juice wants’ he’s stripy black and white trousers back. Just sayin’

Love yourself.

Ok, so I’ve insulted your fashion sense and your ‘emo’ inspired makeup/hair, but I’m telling you right now, if you learn one thing from high school, learn to love yourself.

Popularity and a big pair of knockers will not matter one iota in 5 years time. Enjoy every aspect of your personality. Understand that the only person who can make you feel comfortable in yourself is you. Embrace the awkward phase and the alternative clothing because if you want to dress outside the box, you’ve got to rock it with confidence.

Understand that people like you because of who you are and not who you are trying to be. The only person you want to impress is yourself.

So, to all the awkward, angst-ridden teens out there, understand there is no one else in the world quite like you. You are unique and amazing in every single way.

And I promise you, even though it feels like you don’t know who you are right now, you are not lost. You are just searching for your true self. And one day it will all make sense, the ups, the downs, the fights and the tears. They don’t last forever. One day you’ll see just how fantastic you really are.

G XO

Featured on BBC Three Counties Radio

For anybody who doesn’t currently follow my Twitter or like my Facebook page (I’ll leave the details below if you’d like to follow me on social media), on Friday 28th August, I appeared on the brilliant Nick Coffer‘s radio show on BBC Three Counties Radio!

I was asked to go on the show to talk about my blog as well as the subject matters I talk about on Georgia Next Door (Anxiety and mental health). Nick and I had been speaking on Twitter a few days previously and realised we had a lot in common when it came to dealing with anxiety!

It was such an amazing opportunity to feature on my local radio and talk about issues that mean a lot to me.

For anyone who missed me on the show Friday, here is a link:

http://bbc.in/1Fjs8jW

Let me know what you thought of the show!

Thank you all for the continued support and hello to all the new followers!

Georgia

xo

Follow me for the latest news and updates about my blog:

Twitter: @thatgeorgiacoan

Facebook: Georgia Next Door

Misconceptions of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Anxiety is kind of like that friend who you know has your best interests but is actually REALLY clingy and slightly obsessive

Anxiety is a natural emotional response to anything that our brain deems as being dangerous. Referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response, it was most useful back in the stone ages to prevent yourself from becoming lunch for a hungry creature double your size.

Hormones, such as adrenaline, would prepare you physically to fight the creature or do a runner! In turn, this would make you feel more alert and ready your muscles for a WWE style smackdown or a Mo Farah run, which would hopefully stop you from becoming a human kebab!

Thankfully, we don’t have to worry as much about creatures trying to feast upon us these days.

But these reactions to potentially dangerous situations are still prevalent and sometimes for good reasons. Without anxiety, we would literally all live our lives like members of the Jack Ass team. As an emotion, it allows us to approach situations with a levelheaded outlook.

‘Hey, Bob, should I dangle my legs off this really tall cliff for the lol’s?’  

‘Hmm, not too sure about that Jim…Sounds dangerous to me’  

‘What’s the worst that could happen?’  

‘Well, you could slip and fall down the cliff to your death Jim’  

‘Yeah, that’s true Bob, better not try that then’

(In this situation, Bob is anxiety)

Anxiety will cause feelings of unease and fearfulness in many life situations from school exams and job interviews to illnesses or breakups. But for many people, these feelings will only be present during a small and reasonable length of time. These are normal emotional reactions that every person will and should feel.

An anxiety disorder refers to an exaggerated and prolonged response that affects an individual’s everyday life. It’s often hard for people to differentiate between suffering from an anxiety disorder or just undergoing a normal anxiety response because anxiety is such a common emotion.

But the two are very different.

There are many misconceptions about anxiety disorders and I’m going to talk about a few of the most common.

Only weak people get anxiety disorders.

You can be the strongest person in the world and still be struck down with an anxiety disorder. In all fairness, it’s usually the strongest and most confident people who suffer from anxiety disorders because they hide their emotions away. It’s a bit like kids films where someone would keep putting stuff under their bed and pretending it wasn’t there until the bed touched the bedroom ceiling.

People who suffer from mental health problems are often ashamed. Society has to lead us to believe we have to put a smile on our faces all the time and pretend to be something we are not. This leads to high levels of stress, which will eventually lead to anxiety disorders.

At this point, people are often left confused. ‘Oh, I never knew so and so was having such a hard time! I thought they were really strong’.

People deal with situations in very different ways. We don’t always know people’s stories or what their lives are truly like. Try not to judge.

Only people with anxiety disorders have panic attacks  

Panic attacks are a common symptom of high anxiety but are not always prominent with anxiety disorders. Specifically, anxiety disorders like Generalised Anxiety Disorder are more commonly diagnosed due to other less obvious symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, and obsessive thoughts.

Panic attacks are a physical reaction to anxiety and regular panic attacks will usually lead to a diagnosis of Panic Disorder (an anxiety disorder which consists of excessive panic attacks). But as stated, they are not always a symptom of an anxiety disorder and a panic attack can happen with or without mental health problems being present (such as the first time someone performs on a stage).

Anxiety Disorders can only be treated with medication

Medication should always be a last resort when it comes to anxiety but you should always decide what works best for you. In the short term, anti-anxiety medication can help you to obtain a better mindset in order to use other techniques.

However, there are lots of alternative techniques that can be used to get on top of an anxiety disorder and medication will often have it’s own side effects which should always be discussed in length with your GP.

Medication free treatments include:

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)

Mindfulness Meditation  

Counseling  

Breathing Techniques  

and Hypnosis (and others)

You should always fight anxiety!

Anxiety isn’t something you should fight against, but rather work alongside to control. When you fight anxiety, it often gets worse. Anxiety thinks it’s doing you a favour because, after all, it’s protecting you from ‘harm’. Specific treatments such as exposure therapy will allow you to face your fears a little every day and stay on top of your anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are not easy to deal with. They often make you feel like you’re a prisoner to your own mind but getting the right help and support can allow you to do all the things you love and not feel as though your anxiety disorder defines you. You should never feel alone as 1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer from an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives.

Keep strong!

Georgia OX

Mind http://www.mind.org.uk

Mood Juice http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/anxiety.asp

The Alone Sibling: Dealing with Sibling Loss

1000205_10201530543682559_863423124_nAs a child, I couldn’t have imagined what life as an only child would be like.

A number of my cousins are only children. And although they knew no different, I almost felt sympathy for them. How lonely they must feel? With no one to play with, no one to tell their secrets to or moan about their parents with.

My brother and I were very close as children right through to the teenage years. We were also arch enemies, like most siblings. But through all the beatings and vicious insults, there was always an unbreakable bound and enough love to create world peace 5 times over.

We were best friends, although we wouldn’t have wanted to admit it. There wasn’t much we didn’t speak about. I think my brother was the only person in the world who could make me laugh so much I wet myself (literally). We encouraged each other’s confidence. We bitched about rude people and we would be the first to stick up for one another in a fight (I specifically remember almost reducing a boy to tears when I charged up to him in the school playground after he stole my brothers football).

Yeah, we were pretty much partners in crime.

One of my fondest memories of my brother was him riding down on his bike to my college so that he could walk with me home. (I would often have to bribe him with a Pot Noodle, but still)

The day I found out my brother had gone was single handedly the worst day of my life.

It was like the world had fallen from it’s axis and the ground had crumbled beneath my feet.

It’s strange all the small details that you remember. Like the wheel chair in the family room that specifically read ‘departures lounge’ on the back or the criss crossed button on my cardigan that I repeatedly ran my nail up and down whilst trying not to look at my devastated parents in the corner of the room. And the doctors face when he came into the room with a large group of medical professionals and told us they couldn’t save my brother.

All I can remember after that is falling to the floor as though the ground had dropped, sick to my stomach and crying so uncontrollable I honestly didn’t recognise the noise of my own screams.

All I wanted to do in that moment was go back to being a five year old child. I wanted my parents to sweep me up and tell me it was all OK and just a bad dream like the ones I had when I was younger. I wanted someone to tell me it was all a mistake, that normal, average families didn’t go through this loss. My naivety was so over powering. I felt like the smallest, most vulnerable creature in the world.

The weeks after were just a blur. For any one who has lost a sibling, you’ll know the swarms of people, both old and new who appear at your door step with flowers in hand, cards with well wishes and messages of condolence. And you’ll know that after a week to two after, when those flowers have begun to wilt and the everyday life once again resumes, those visits are far and few between. And suddenly, the daunting realisation that you are now completely alone with your grief hits you like the biggest wave you’ve even faced.

And those waves keep on hitting you, like a Tsunami that ceases to relent.

As a sibling, our grief is often not as noticeable to others. People will continually ask you how your parents are. They don’t mean this in a rude way, as though the are ignorant to the over bearing black cloud of grief that engulfs your head and hangs over you. It’s just they don’t know what else to ask you.

Let’s be honest, sibling grief isn’t widely spoken about. We don’t speak about the effect on an individual, how it changes their life’s for ever. Maybe we are frightened to speak about it. No one wants to image life without their sibling.

But that doesn’t mean our voices shouldn’t be heard.

This is the story of an alone child. How life can change in an instant.

It gets a little easier everyday, but everyday has its challenges.

And the reality of an alone child will always be with you, like a black crow sitting beside you. And occasionally it will consume you, the grief too hard to bear. But you will get through it. Because that’s the only choice us alone siblings have.