Sunday, 31 August 2014

My week in photos #3

Workers boots
Sunset on the bridge
Our house that we are currently renovating has amazing detailing on the roof. 

A hidden gem between all the rubble 
The wallpaper in the hallway

Tried being artsy with my reflection in the window (before I had to clean it) 
Path to a park next door


Hope you're all having an excellent week!

Infinite x's and o's,

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Anxiety & Panic attacks

This is a bit of a different and quite personal blog post but I've been asked a lot lately about anxiety and what exactly is a panic attack, so I thought I would write about it.
Especially seeing as though unfortunately, a lot of people suffer with anxiety and panic attacks or at least know someone that does. Hopefully this will help someone feel a little bit more normal. (whatever that is)

The other day I mentioned that I had anxiety to one of my friends and they didn't believe me. "but you're so confident all the time! You don't have anxiety!"
I feel like a lot of friends and family who read this will probably think the same. My Anxiety is different to others because we aren't all the same and some hide it better. I guess that means I'm a pretty good hider.
I think at one point or another, everyone has experienced some form of anxiety, even if only relatively small. Such as stage fright, driving in heavy city traffic or stressing over an un-finished assignment.

To give you an idea of how my anxiety started i'll give you a little bit of background. When I was about fourteen years old in high-school, I went to the school shrink. I won't tell the whole tragic high-school back-story but I was forced to go. Basically to make the school principal feel better because he was doing nothing to prevent the bullies from continuing their daily ritual of torture. Mrs. *insert very long intimidating Russian last name here* told me I had an anxiety disorder even though I was never actually diagnosed with it.

After leaving high school, I never saw another psychiatrist about what I had just been through because the whole drama had completely changed my mind about them. So I buried my little emotional baggage in the "too hard & I'll deal with it later" basket.

Slowly the "too hard & I'll deal with it later" basket was filled with more emotionally damaging things until... eventually it over-flowed...

And Bam. I died.

Just kidding, although it felt like I was. I had never experienced a panic attack before and for those who don't know what a panic attack is, It is basically a point which your body is preparing you for "fight" or "flight" and releases adrenaline. Which causes your heart to beat extremely fast. It can feel like the entire room is caving in, sounds and noises are heightened, you get hot/cold flushes, your body starts to shake, you start feeling very nauseous and you can feel extremely light-headed.

If you've ever had a really bad dream where for instance this manic clown is chasing you with a chainsaw and you quickly wake up and have to catch your breath before you realise it's a dream. That huge rush of adrenaline and fear. That's pretty much what a panic attack feels like. It can hit you at any time too, most often then not you won't be doing anything that would normally cause anxiety. Most panic attacks last anywhere from 5-30 minutes, for some it can last a lot longer if they have more than one panic attack continually.

The funny thing is, no one can really tell when you're having an attack, It's a completely internal thing. When observing someone having an attack they can look completely fine, but internally they feel like they're dying. As long as someone doesn't try to talk to them, it might go completely un-noticed.

It's not as easy as "Just don't think about it, you'll be fine" I get that expression said to me a lot. It's not your choice and you have absolutely no control where, when or if you have a panic attack. If it was, I definitely wouldn't choose to have an attack, can't just think "oh yep, sorry panic attack.. you're just going to have to wait or see you never bye". I wish!

Another I guess I would call it a side-affect that comes with anxiety is that your self-esteem is pretty all over the place. I still sometimes think that people are judging me, that I've said something to offend someone if they haven't replied to my message within half an hour. That all my friends have secret meetings where they just talk about how super weird and annoying I am. You start to think that by being the way you are, you're a total downer and are ruining the people's lives around you. Realise though that these thoughts are not the truth!

Countless times I have turned down events and get-together's that I actually really wanted to go to simply because I'm so afraid I'll get a panic attack and get judged by those around me. I knew that I wouldn't be able to control whether or not I had a panic attack. After a while my friends just stopped asking me out because they knew I would come up with some excuse.

 the first time I had an attack would have been when I was around sixteen. I was just sitting in class doing absolutely nothing that would have caused anxiety. At first it felt like I wasn't in the room, like my head was somewhere else. My heart started beating rapidly, I lost all colour in my face and I found it a struggle to breathe. My teacher was ready to call the ambulance, but he must have known what was wrong at some point. 

He walked me outside on the balcony, sat me on a chair by-myself and told everyone to stop looking at me and go back inside. He then handed me an orange (I'm guessing to get my blood sugar levels up) then walked back inside and on his way said "You can stay out here as long as you want, if you need me to call the ambulance or you parents just say the word."
Nicest teacher out. He didn't make me feel like a total freak, but to be honest I had no idea what was going on. In my mind I was dying and my teacher just handed me an orange. Goodbye cruel world!

I definitely am a lot better than I used to be.  I can walk up to someone and introduce myself, go to a party If I know one of my friends or family will be there, hand my resume to a manager at a store, look a stranger in the eyes and smile back and talk to someone while waiting in line. I still get that under-lying tinge of anxiety sure, but I've learnt to push through it instead of trying to completely stop it.

So, how do I deal with panic attacks & what helps me to calm back down?

When I'm actually having a panic attack, which doesn't happen as often as it used to.
 I find a few things can calm me down.
If you witness or are around someone when they are having a panic attack don't try to distract them with music or pointless questions, it doesn't work.
Every effort the person suffering from the attack has is basically focused on trying not to die, breathing and calming down. Not answering questions or repeating the alphabet backwards.

What works for me is removing myself from the situation, so if where I am is indoors, I will go outside away from loud noises and people, sit down in silence and focus on breathing. If my friends are with me we'll just sit silently for a bit and pretty quickly all is good again.

Another tactic I have developed to reduce the chances of having an attack is to get as many details about the place or people I will be with as I can. For instance If I'm going to a concert or something of that nature. I learn where all the exits are incase I need to escape outside if I have an attack suddenly, also where the bathrooms are and where security is.

I think everyone with anxiety has their own ways of coping and trying to prevent panic attacks, so do whatever works for you, as long as it's not self harming or unhealthy. I think the best advice I could say is baby steps. Anxiety doesn't stop over-night and you'll get to a point where it's not even a concern for you any-more, but to get to that place is a constant battle. So don't stop fighting.

If you don't have anxiety and are wondering what to do if someone around you does have an attack here are some of the things you should and should not do:

-Don't try to distract them by asking questions, your presence and silence is probably the best thing you can do.
-Do not try to force them out of the panic attack or get angry, it makes the person feel useless.
-Let them recover in their own time
-Don't start making assumptions about why they are panicking or how easily it is to snap out of it  because your cousins sisters daughters friend once had anxiety and did. Not so helpful.
-Do find a positive goal to focus on such as this person made it to the front stairs of the cinema, even though they didn't go in they still got half way, which is something that should not be discouraged.
-Remember that this person didn't choose to be the way they are, they're not purposely causing an attack just to annoy you, don't get angry or tell them how disappointed you are.
-Things not to say when a person is having a panic attack: "Just get over it" "You can fight it, don't let it win." "Stop being ridiculous!" "Why are you panicking you didn't even do anything". "There are worse things out there in life than panic attacks!" "you're not having a panic attack, its just nerves"

Instead just let the person know you are there for them and will not try and force them to do anything. Encourage them that they tried and remind them they will be fine again after 20 minutes.
A good idea is to have a code-word, so the person who has anxiety can subtly mention it in conversation when they feel they are about to or are having a panic attack.  
Often times after a person has recovered from a panic attack, their self-esteem is pretty much non-existent. They can feel ashamed, annoyed, depressed and fairly low at themselves. Encouragement and reassurance is probably the best thing you can do to a person who just had an attack.

Hopefully this post gave you a bit of insight or helped in some way.
If you are suffering from panic attacks, just remember that you are not alone and it's nothing to be ashamed of. You will eventually recover from it, never stop battling and taking those baby steps. It will not happen over-night and it's perfectly ok to put your health first.
Please don't lock yourself at home and think you can't live your life normally with anxiety and panic attacks. Keep trying.

Infinite x's and o's,


My month in photos

I haven't done a "my week in photos" post in quiet a while because I honestly haven't had the time to take a lot of photos, either that or my week was really boring and I figured no one really wanted to see photos of what I ate for dinner every day! So, to make things a little more interesting I decided to do a "my month in photos" from a combination of my posts on instagram and other modes of photography (is that the right expression) Here we go!:

For a few days the moon was full and absolutely stunning.

I got a little Arty...

Decided to wear my motorbike jacket out (the fact that I don't have a motorbike yet is irrelevant) 

Things got a little weird when I decided to comic-book myself with makeup one night. Which was the result of boredom, procrastination and running on energy drinks.

Finishing an 18 page assignment with very little sleep, Ps: don't try this at home kids.

Gorgeous sunset, (ps: no I wasn't driving, you can calm) 

Something about these jellybeans brings back a flood of childhood memories. I still remember the day my doctor didn't offer my a jellybean after I'd gone to see him, it was a very sad day, my childhood was over.

I got a little too excited and over-estimated how many brownies I actually needed to make one day, but honestly, can one have too many brownies? I think not!
Found a weirdo in my mirror

For whatever reason, my best friend Lisa and I couldn't breathe laughing at her impression of a hillbilly playing a guitar while we were waiting in my car, which resulted in foggy windows and drawing. We had a little too much sugar that night.... 

The same night we went to watch Lucy (very odd movie) and the cinema was empty! (we had fun ;) )

Pizza night! 

After the sad death of Robin Williams, my friends and I decided to watch Aladdin as a tribute. (the beginning of any disney movie always makes me a little nostalgic) 

Sunday drinks with a friend! Not just Smirnoff...

Got a little arty once again.. With new watercolour pencils.

So there it is, my month in photos!

Hope you're having a great week and month so far,

Infinite x's and o's,