Sunday 17 March 2013

real life: when anxiety gets in the way.

Anxiety and work often don't mix very well. While for some people deadlines, stress and problem solving spur them on to work harder, for others it leaves them in a crumpled mess, quietly weeping under the desk.

For me, stress generally has the latter effect. It was one of the contributing factors to me dropping out of uni and spending the majority of the next couple of years hiding under my duvet (along with a chronic illness & depression).

I haven't been in education or work for about 4 years, apart from two short voluntary stints where my mum - my safety blanket! - also works. When I decided to move to Bristol, I knew I'd no longer have my safety blanket nearby, so I had to start doing things for myself.

Using skills I learnt during Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) sessions,  I got myself to a meeting with Volunteer Bristol, who then matched me up with a mentor. They are great at supporting those who have been out of work for a while and/or have problems with mental health.

I feel really lucky in that I was set up with a mentor who shares a similar outlook on life, even if I did find it weird at first that he's younger than me! Together we've found opportunities that I would find interesting, and worked towards applying for them.

The volunteering position I was most interested in was doing marketing/social media etc at an arts club 10 minutes walk from my house. And although I put it off for a good while, I sent my CV in, visited 3 times and finally started last week (with a push from my mum and a lot of chocolate-based rewards!)

Although I've only done one shift, I'm already starting to feel the benefits - I feel like a useful and worthy human being, I'm learning new skills, meeting and interacting with new people, making positive steps towards the life I want, and I no longer dread the "so what do you do?" question. Plus, it being a voluntary position means that I have flexible hours if my health or other opportunities get in the way.

I've still got a long way to go, and I am by no means an expert, but I feel like I've learnt a few things that could help others who are in similar situations:

• Learn to accept/seek help when you need it -
Whether that be CBT or another kind of therapy, the help of supportive family or friends, organisations such as Volunteer Bristol, and/or having a mentor guide you through life, having someone there to give you an objective view on things and the tools to make the next steps is so useful.

• Use healthy coping mechanisms -
I've adapted skills that I learnt during CBT to fit this new challenge, for example working out whether my worries are real or hypothetical, and then finding solutions.

• Set manageable goals -
Taking little steps and finding ways to reward myself has been a really effective way of getting to where I am now, and I'm sure I'll continue to do this. It doesn't have to be anything big - a few mini eggs will do!

• Learn to relax -
These days it seems like everyone has trouble relaxing. After spending 6 hours staring at a computer screen I spent the evening on my own, pampering myself. 

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  1. I love this post! I get anxious myself, every now and then. Amazingly well written and I love the pictures :)

    Great post!


  2. What an interesting post. My sister is bipolar and it's very difficult for people to understand how this can affect her. Glad you're making steps in the right direction :)

  3. Very interesting. I dont suffer from this myself but know people who do. I think achievable goals and good rewards are key.

    Love your blog. You should be very proud of your progress :)

    Lil xxx

  4. Having just received a disciplinary email this morning for being a daydreaming employee unable to meet deadlines, I was feeling pretty much hopeless and worthless- not that I get the impression you're either of those things. But this post definitely made me realise that everyone is allowed to admit to their weaknesses and we can't all be a stress addicted workhorse. So glad you've found something worthwhile and flexible to apply your creativity to. Inspiring stuff missy :) xxxx

  5. I've bookmarked this post, it's incredibly helpful! I have problems with anxiety and depression, and even though I've had therapy & am on meds for it, some things still freak me out, I can't seem to apply for jobs because I'm too scared, I end up staying in bed with the head under the covers! x

  6. This post is so, so useful - thank you. I'm in almost exactly the same position as you: I dropped out of university mainly due to not having the confidence and belief in myself that I could do it. I felt like I couldn't cope with the work though, in reality, I probably could have done if my own mind hadn't got in the way. I've been unemployed for almost a year now and work just seems so daunting. I've applied and I've had interviews (after a lot of persuading!) but any turn-down just makes it seem so much more difficult. I also dread the 'so what do you do?' question; I feel so pathetic. I was close to having CBT but turned it down last minute (again, mainly due to anxiety!) but after seeing how much it has benefitted you...I need to push myself to register for it again.
    Thank you again for writing on this topic. I can really see it being beneficial to not only myself but a lot of other people too.

  7. thank you for having the courage to write this post, I suffer from extreme anxiety just writing this is a big deal for me. seeing how CBT has helped you has made me decide to try and register for this.

    thank you

  8. I've suffered with anxiety, panic attacks and depression all through my teenage years and I respect you so much for how openly you talk about it. Posts like this will help so many people and it's really inspiring to know that it's something you can make a difference about

  9. I'm so glad you're feeling happier Lyzi! I'm glad you're enjoying the new job! Your posts always make me smile x

    hello scrapbook

  10. I'm so thrilled for you! This is a massive step and I can really empathise with your situation, the first step is always to not let anxiety take over your life and cripple you which is always easier said than done but you've taken the hardest step already. Thank you for being so inspirational!
    Nina from little nomad

  11. It's so nice of you to have shared this, and such valuable advice. I'm going through a lot of difficult exams this year (and next) at school so this is really helpful for people in my position. Luckily, stress normally spurs me to work harder but I have a lot of friends who would appreciate thisxx

  12. Anxiety is a bitch. I have been there and know how much things like this really test you as a person, but also when you make achievements, no matter how small you feel amazing.

    Really glad to see you're making steps in the right direction. You're really an inspiration :)

    Rebecca x (

  13. It's always great when people do posts like this :)
    I'm so glad you are starting to battle it out and feel better!

    I hope you carry on enjoying it :)

  14. Anxiety and depression suck, though I am still in the stage where I am stuck hiding under my blankets :(
    Its very uplifting to hear someone who has made it out the other side!


  15. Thanks for sharing.

    I've let anxiety get in the way off job opportunites I really wanted and other things. It's a shame, I've been shy around people for awhile but I am slowly building up my confidence.


  16. Well done for taking such brave steps!!! It's so daunting to start something new, but so worth it.

    I too have depression, anxiety and M.E. and have been out of work/education for years too. I started volunteering two years ago and once i got used to it I started doing more and more, adding more volunteering and commitments gradually over time. Now I had 3 voluntary jobs, i go to exercise classes and next month i'm hoping to add in a day at college a week and driving lessons to the mix. I've found that if you take things gradually you can slowly build up to a much more "normal" life.

    Good luck!! xx

  17. This is a really helpful post, I'm a natural worrier and I've suffered from anxiety and stress for a few years now, probably made worse by the fact I decided to go into a career where I'm constantly auditioning and putting myself in a place where it's necessary for people to judge me but thus has helped me to remember to take time out and relax every now and again :) Good luck with your new work and I hope your enjoying it so far and that it gives you the boost you need to get yourself going :)
    Rosalie x

  18. Thanks for the post, I've been dealing with the same sort of thing and I've been finding it really difficult recently, thanks for sharing!

  19. It is so wonderful to hear that you're making such positive steps, & (hopefully) coming out the other side.

    This is probably too personal to ask, but I'm going to anyway, & feel free to ignore me if you don't want to answer. But, how have you been supporting yourself? As in, financially? I only ask, as I personally, have been signed off sick from work since September, with severe anxiety & depression, which has affected my life in lots of ways, one of which is that I am having huge issues financially. This is leaving me feeling under pressure to go back to work, even though I don't feel ready health-wise, & is hugely adding to my stress levels. (That's why I ask, I'm not just being nosy)

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with your blog - I know it can be difficult to write about such personal things, but it's obvious that in doing so you've managed to inspire & help lots of your followers, which must make it worthwhile :)

  20. Im going through this too. I've tried 3 different meds now and my doctors next steps are for CBT. I'm super nervous but also broke so need to get on with life! x

  21. Love this post and I especially love how you've managed to get yourself better and positive thinking :)

    I, myself, suffer from a chronic illness which messes with my mental health and I keep beating myself up over the fact that I'll never be able to fulfill a full time working job, let alone go back to University to do my Masters. I have so many dreams and ambitions that I've been struggling to accept will remain only those things, until I can get my physical health better.

    Your post has helped to put a positive spin on my outlook, even though our situations are different, but in the same ways also very similar. I'll definitely be abiding by your tips! :)

  22. Great post with some really useful tips, you've made me realise I need to stop letting anxiety get in the way of me doing the things I want to do!

  23. Hi this is a great post, its great to know that i am not alone in this problem.I have Anxiety and depression too and it has got in the way of a lot of things.I have had good jobs and dropped out of them due to the levels of anxiety and worry that they have caused me.I have also turned down good job opportunities due to being afraid and the anxiety and depression making me believe i couldnt do it.Your post is inspiring.I always enjoy your posts they make me feel happier.I was out of work for about a year but i got a shop assistant job back in september, but i find it a daily struggle with my anxiety and excessive worrying and stressing that i do.The girls where i work say " i've never known anyone worry like you" i wish i was not like this.Anyway i just wanted to mention that i finally found the courage to go to the doctors and seek help, this i found almost impossible for so long but finally i had to do it.I have been on the waiting list for CBT and i have just started sessions of it, i have only had two sessions so far, but i remember you mentioned it being good before and im hoping i will have luck with it like you did.I just hope that he can help me to change my way of thinking and help me not to panic so much.Im glad to hear that you are doing so well too.This post and your comments helps me to realise that theres lots of people that suffer with this and i aren't weird or strange for having it im not the odd one out anymore. Thank you. Gemma xx

  24. Really enjoyed reading this post honey, it is good to know you are on the mend and starting to try new things. I always aspire to be more like you because I know you may have these 'conditions' but you are one of the nicest and cutest people I got to meet last year. Keep your chin up and keep going :) xxx

  25. Thank you for sharing this. I had to take six months off work when my anxiety and depression were really bad, and I constantly felt really guilty about it, even though there was absolutely no way I could have gone into work. I then had to change my job to something less challenging... At the time I saw it as a failure, but now I see it (most of the time) as a sensible decision. It sounds like you're making really good progress, I hope the new voluntary work turns out well for you xx

  26. Good on you Lyzi! I've learnt that you can't always rush things jobwise, but if you're determined you'll get there x

  27. I love that you're being so genuine and honest about mental illness.
    I'm sure you get a lot of these but this is a post on film blog I've done on mental health in film, i think you might find it interesting, I'd love to know if you feel the same, I think it is a real problem for de-stigmatising mental illness and for confusing people and not helping firther understanding.

    For the sisters in the struggle! :-)
    (p.s your eyebrows are an inspiration)

    specially about my experiences with mental illness and, eventually, mental health :-)

    Thanks! xxx

  28. Thank you for such a great post! I too have struggled with mental health over the past couple of years - anxiety particularly. I found it difficult to finish my university course but eventually made it, though not to the standard I'd hoped.

    It really helps to know you're not alone - which I'm sure you know since you have so many lovely followers! Well done for making those steps, I know it can seem silly to reward yourself for things that others would find easy but recognising how hard you're working is such a great feeling. Glad things are going well for you :) x


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