Category Archives: happiness

Fighting For Ellie: It’s On!

Today’s a bit of a big day in the whole Fighting For Ellie process, with weigh-ins and the submission of match-up choices at the gym tonight as well as tickets going on sale!

The last Fighting For Ellie event – the 3rd of its’ kind overall and the first outing of the partnership between Princess Ellie’s Trust and Millennium Martial Arts (hence it being christened ‘Season 1’ – was at Newsham Side Club, which is the 350-capacity home to the Punch-Drunk Blyth events. Tickets were to go on sale at Millennium at 5:00pm on a Friday evening and by 4:50pm the queue was so long – and it being September, everyone was waiting in the cold – that they started selling early and were sold out by 4:55!

This time around for Season 2, FFE is moving to Blyth Sports Centre which recently played host to the spectacular UK Comics Boxing: Fight For Kian and which can host a colossal 800 people. So this time the tickets might last half an hour or so!

Seriously though, I’ll be at the gym and can’t wait to see how fast 800 of these things go!

The Sports Centre venue is amazing if ever-so-slightly daunting! Fancy having your first ever fight in the middle of this set-up…

FFK set-up panoramic

So it’s a very exciting day in the FFE: Season 2 build-up calendar – but I do wish it wasn’t coming at the end of a week in said calendar that’s looking decidedly blank…

Training Diary for WordPress NEW

The forever-good-intentions of getting into the gym during the Punch-Drunk run faded, as usual, into nothingness and coupling that with less than desirable eating habits over the last week and I’m hoping I’m not going to be weighing substantially heavier than I will be in 4 weeks’ time after engaging full beast-mode tonight.

I promise that the next time you see that calendar, there will be a lot more colour happening because not only am I getting steadily more terrified as the hours go by – but comparing how I feel today to how I felt last Friday is easily motivation enough to get right back into it.

So I’m off to make some eggs and try to resist sticking bacon on too, I’ll check back in on how tonight went down, or might see you down there!

I’ll warn you now, this will be the first of many, many of these… Eeeeeeeeek!

L xx

Tickets for Fighting For Ellie go on sale TONIGHT!
(25th March)
5.30pm
Millennium Martial Arts

Standard tickets are £25 each.

Ring side at table with waitress are £35 each or £400 for a table of 12.

UNFORTUNATELY TICKETS CAN NOT BE RESERVED

Fighting For Ellie takes place on 23rd April @Blyth Sports Centre – check the event page here for further details

 

 

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Fighting For Ellie: holding pads and hill sprints

So my first training update – as many of them are likely to be – is all about first time experiences.

This week so far I’ve done my first Pad-Smash session at Millennium (Monday night) and my first Hill Sprints up the very beautiful but utterly sadistic Bothal Bank (Tuesday morning).

Like seriously, my little Phoebe Fiat 500 doesn’t like dragging her arse up that thing and my little legs have substantially less horsepower than she does!

It was also very nearly my first instance of throwing up as a result of working out – something that it would appear is some sort of uber-grim rite of passage for any serious boxing trainee. So I’ll keep you posted on if and when I achieve that accolade. I might even take a picture for ya 😉

As it happened today I narrowly avoided a spewing incident – but it was a close run thing.

The thing about Hill Sprints (Yes I’m giving ‘Hill Sprints’ capital letters. You would too. If you don’t respect them, they’ll kill you) is that your head will keep telling you that you don’t need to stop long after your body has quietly come to the opposite conclusion. This is because just as the uphill sprint gets too much and everything’s screaming at you to stop, you do, returning to the bottom of the hill in what in comparison to the uphill part feels like (undoubtedly doesn’t look like but definitely feels like) a proverbial jog in the park.

So guess what. By the time the short window of time has passed that gets you back to the bottom, the uphill bit now somehow seems like a good idea again. Well not exactly a good one but certainly a not-terrible one. Do 7 of these though and if you’re anything like me your body will eventually ‘put it’s foot down’ and use the threat of impending vomiting to convince you that the uphill bit is very much not a good idea any more. Yes only 7. But we’re talking firsts, here!

On the plus side, the photo below shows Bothal, of Bothal Bank fame. So it’s not the worst of places to visit first thing in the morning, even if it is a bit rainy…

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BOTHAL CASTLE, AT THE BOTTOM OF BOTHAL BANK

Yep, Northumberland’s quite nice.

Going back to the other first of the week – Pad-Smash at Millennium on Monday night came directly after I had (if I do say so myself) kicked a Fighting Fit circuit class in the dick. It was super-encouraging to go in there and kick its arse because the last twice that I’d been in, Fighting Fit (a high-intensity circuit class) had unquestionably kicked my arse. The only difference really being that this time I was very aware that I had only 6 weeks until Fighting For Ellie and needed to start training in earnest. So I decided I was going to smash Fighting Fit – and I did.

Now the significance of this lies in the fact that I’m relying very much for the success of this whole process on the belief that by the very virtue of deciding that I’m going to achieve something, I can achieve it. So naturally this small confirmation of the fact that deciding I’m going to do something is the key to accomplishing it, was very welcome indeed.

Directly following the 45-minute circuit class and with my “let’s do this” head firmly on, after a brief water-break as the class members changed over, we started to warm up for an hour’s class on pad-work. as I warmed up I thanked the sadistic workout Gods that it was ‘just’ pad-work and not sparring, because I was sodding knackered already.

Now you’ll notice that I put the “just” in inverted commas. This is because since having that thought on Monday night I’ve realised the error of my ways and won’t refer to the pad-work session as ‘just’ anything, ever again.

Now there are pros and cons to doing pad-work with Gav Humphries as your partner. The pros include that he’s bloody good at holding pads (which it turns out is actually harder than throwing good punches, or at least more confusing) and a good pad-holder makes for a good training session.

The cons are simple – when Gav repeatedly punches pads that you’re holding  with the tiny hands on the end of your chicken-wrists for half of an hour-long session. It eventually gets to fucking hurt.

About 50 minutes in (so 95 minutes into my gym session all together) I asked Gav if we ever got to leave the gym again or if this was it. I mean I knew there was a second wind in there somewhere and that I’d finish the class but we did get to leave at some point, right? I needed to know there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Thankfully it turned out we were allowed to leave. After a “burnout.” This turned out to consist of what felt like endless consecutive sets of straight punches, right & left hooks and upper cuts followed by burpees and press-ups. My self-consciousness about making a racket whilst throwing everything into a punch was very quickly wiped out. There was no way in hell I was finishing that without a peep! I managed it though and even managed to keep my face almost grimace-free while Gav took his turn at what felt like 7,000,000 punches. Then did star-jumps until everyone finished their own burnouts.

Let’s just say I left more than a little bit exhausted and after talking to a friend in the carpark for 20 minutes – very cold – as the once-warm sweat went cold on the back of my t-shirt.

I have to admit that I decided against a third first tonight by dipping out of the sparring class that I’d been considering. I’ve heard the sparring class at Millennium (where you make your way around the class practising sparring with as many different partners as possible) described as a shark-tank. And after watching one or two of them I can confirm that description to be terrifyingly accurate. But I’ve got to fight – that kind of being the point of this whole thing – so after a few more pad-work sessions and some practice at home over the next couple of weeks, I’ll have an undoubtedly hilarious account of my first sparring session for you.

This feels like leaving it a little bit late to get into those classes to be honest but with the Punch-Drunk gigs running Monday-Wednesday next week, Monday and Wednesday’s classes will be a no-go 😦

Guess I’ll just have to make up for lost time!

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BEAST-MODE: ENGAGED

 

Thanks for reading!
L xx

Anxiety and Focus – mortal enemies?

First of all I feel like the title of this post might be a little misleading so maybe I should warn you – if you’re looking for any enlightenment here then I should probably ‘manage expectations’ a bit. I don’t think I necessarily have any answers to the questions that I want to talk about. But then I suppose that’s probably why I want to talk about them.

So here goes. Concentration doesn’t come easily to me. And this means that writing doesn’t come easily. Nor does reading, at least in as much as I struggle to get ‘lost’ in a book the way I used to be able to. If my 10-year-old self could see how slowly I get through a novel these days she’d be horrified. This is no revelation though, we’re probably all familiar with this change as part of being an adult (I’m getting there) and having adult responsibilities (I like to call them distractions).

But for me concentration is often made all the more difficult by my anxiety. Again I’m sure everyone reading this will identify with that at some level. We’re all human, we’re complex, and we worry about things. We all have various every day distractions and longer-term worries from which it’s hard to detach. So the way I see it, anxiety is really a continuum along which we all fluctuate as we pass through days, weeks, months and years. Like the bubble in a spirit level, we’re so rarely on a completely even keel.

After all modern life is so fast-paced. You only have to realise that there’s so much going on that tips and tricks about how to balance all of the elements of your life and still be productive, without being bogged down in the infinite details and opportunities for becoming burnt out, have become currency.

For me the speed with which thoughts run through my head at any given time sits up there at 10,000 miles per hour, plus. I worry about everything. Then I worry about the fact that I worry about everything. Then I worry about the fact that I’m capable of being worried about worrying about everything and whether I should be concerned about that. On rare occasions when I’m momentarily not worrying about anything, I start to worry that I’m forgetting something important that needs worrying about. I run over things in my head until, usually within a few seconds, I find a suitable candidate to commence worrying about.

I often hear people talking about those nights when they can’t sleep because they’re over-thinking. They’re really taking stock of their lives and I can always empathise because I know all too well that can be a scary thing to do, especially if you’re overly critical of yourself. At these times people take a step back from the everday, look inwards and face difficult truths about what they might need to change. They make tough decisions and they do so while over-analysing minute details and beating themselves up for this, that and the other.

I hear people talk about these episodes of over-thinking and I empathise. I also wonder what it’s like to not be thinking like that all of the time. Because reflection isn’t a once-in-a-while, sleepless-night, take-stock-and-see-if-I-need-to-change-direction thing for me. It’s a continual and almost entirely relentless daily, hourly process.

So although on the whole I’m a very motivated person, I want to get things done and I do, and when I do something I do it absolutely to the best of my ability (and then worry that I could have done better); behind all of this is the fact that I often have to work very, very hard on focusing my head on a task. On concentration.

And it’s not the constant nature of this mindset that makes things difficult. It’s the level of minute detail that my head insists on drilling down into.

Now I don’t mean to sound self-absorbed here, I know that by probably the longest shot possible, I’m not the only person that lives this way. That’s at least 80% of the reason that I talk about these things, because I know there are legions of people who will identify with them, the other 20% of my reasoning being wholly selfish –  it helps me figure these things out. So I’m just trying to describe how it is for me because that’s all that I know intimately.

What I’m trying to say is that although I’m thankful for the way I am because it is all of me, as a package, that’s gotten me what I’ve achieved so far and that makes up my potential for the future; nevertheless sometimes I just can’t help thinking, surely it doesn’t have to be quite this difficult.

So I’ve been thinking a lot lately about focus. About working out how to, at will, get into that positive feedback loop of motivation, concentration and productivity that we all experience on our most fruitful days. That focus that overrides the powerful impulse to become distracted by whether I’ve remembered everything I need to factor in before going to pick up my first car next week; whether the conversation I had this morning came across as I meant it to or if I made a bad impression; what meals I’m going to cook next week and what I need to buy for them from Asda; or whether writing this post is what I should be doing with this particular Sunday morning or if there’s something more important that I’m neglecting.

We all know there are few better feelings than when you’re having a really productive day, when you’re really engaged in what you’re doing and you’re getting loads done. Ticking things off the to-do list. We all know that once you’re in that zone the motivation and therefore the focus and concentration, feeds itself.

From a personal point of view, I don’t think that my anxiety prevents me from achieving anything. I can’t let it because the anxiety about not achieving anything is the kind that I feel most acutely. However, the day to day ‘busy-ness’ in my head can make concentration and focus difficult to maintain. Sometimes trying to concentrate on something can feel like a major conflict of interests involving trying my damnedest to stop thinking (something I spent a long time trying very hard to do while I hauled ass through my teenage years with OCD), in order to make room so that I can engage and guess what, think.

Now I’m always going to have to live with my anxiety. I’ve had two and a half decades to get used to that fact and as scary as it sometimes is to admit it, I’ve accepted that I’ll never ‘master’ it. I also know though, that I wouldn’t have achieved what I have in recent years without it. It pushes me forwards, albeit along a very bumpy track. I know that I can handle it and I plan to never stop learning more about how to live productively and more importantly, happily, alongside it.

So if we can’t remove the distraction that anxiety brings a-knocking, I guess the question is how do we learn to tap in, whenever we need to, to whatever it is that’s spurring us on those days when we’re measuring about 10 feet tall and feeling like we can achieve absolutely anything that we want to, right in that moment. That motivation that can allow us to override the distractions.

Or is that the wrong way to look at it? Is it less about working out what magical factor gets us over that subconscious brick wall on our most productive, focused days; and more about working out what the wall is constructed of and therefore how to empower ourselves to start chipping away at it on the harder days?

In other words what is it that isn’t there on those days when nothing can stop you, rather than what is?

Looking at my struggles with my subconscious through that lense, I think that my own brick wall is strongly founded in the fear of going head-long into things and giving them my all – and failing – and the way I’ll then feel about myself if I do. For me, that’s what’s conspicuously absent on my most productive, most effective, most powerful days. The absence of it is what gets me excited and in turn helps me zone in and focus, enough to distract from the distractions.

So can dismantling the wall be as simple (read terrifying) as just having to keep putting myself out there and learning the hard way that I can do it, whatever the ‘it‘ happens to be at the time?

Will that message continue to stick for longer and longer each time? And is that momentum the tool that I need, to dismantle the wall?

Thank you for listening to my somewhat inconclusive ramblings, if you like this post I’d really appreciate if you would share any comments you have, or any personal perspectives, below.

What’s your brick wall? How can you/do you chip away at it?

The Little Jar

I’ve been neglecting my little page a bit lately but a stressful few days have gotten me in the mood to sit and write something. There’s something about getting motivated and creating a thing that didn’t exist before I sat down and started typing, that always manages to make me feel a bit better. A bit less useless. It let’s me tell this wonderfully persistent, naggy brain of mine that in fact, I am kinda good at shit.

So I was thinking today, as I do most days along with 7 zillion other things, about how very fast this year is zipping past and the fact that it’s almost 1/4 of the way through already. Oh screw it I’m going to say it, we’re nearly 1/4 of the way back round to Christmas guys! It’s almost Easter. My 25th birthday is in just over 10 weeks. It’s almost a year since I bound and submitted my dissertation. It’s Spring already.

Just to state the obvious for a second – humour me here and pretend you hadn’t already noticed – one of the various obsessions that my clinically anxious mind likes to have repeated dalliances with is the notion of just how fast the time around which we choose to structure our lives likes to flit by, leaving us staring after it like a hungry dog who’s just watched a butcher run past (inexplicably but it’s a metaphor, go with it) with a string of sausages dangling  over his shoulder; but realises pretty sharpish that he’s tied to a lamppost and has to sit and watch as the juicy sausages fade into memory.

The point is, the year is flying by in the same whirlwind fashion that all of it’s brothers before have done before and all it’s successors will continue to do.

So I think it’s time to stop for a minute and take stock of the year so far. It’s been a big 3 months, and an exciting 3 months. Actually taking a look back at it serves to make it feel a lot less short; it feels good to realise how much has happened in that time. To name a few, one of my best friends and my older-little brother both passed their driving tests. Another bestie started her lessons and another one conquered her nerves and re-started them after a long break. My Mam, another of my best friends and my older sister have all made drastic changes to their lifestyles that they’ve wanted to make for a long time, and are already healthier, slimmer and happier. My big sister started her Nursing degree (yesterday, actually) and is a big step closer to achieving the career she’s always wanted. Another very good friend of mine had an easel built for her by her boyfriend and started to paint again (which is great news for everyone). I’ve had various blog posts shared by prominent mental health organisations and started blogging for the website of a fantastic local (for now) organisation. I’ve also signed up and been in training for my first ever running event.

So it’s safe to say I’m one very proud lady, with a lot of great people in my life. I’m also more than a little bit sentimental in character, just in case I didn’t state the obvious enough earlier.

So as previously pointed out I’m a major over-thinker and a lot of the time this can make it hard to be positive and upbeat about things because I’m always finding something to worry about. Sometimes it feels like there’s a sunny, positive, probably pretty annoying person inside me trying to burst out, but she’s held back by frustratingly obsessive worries and anxiety. Last year this finally drove me to undergo Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it was very helpful. CBT is not about delving into your childhood to figure out the hows and whys of the way you feel. It’s much more about learning how to regain control of your thoughts in order to be happier and, for me, more productive. One of the things I learned a lot about is just how closely our thoughts, feelings and actions are linked and how to employ actions to take back some control of what you’re thinking and in turn, how you feel.

So in order to work on feeling more positive, I decided early in the year after seeing the idea somewhere on the infinitely wise inter-web, to start keeping a little jar in which I stick a little bit of paper each night, after writing on it something positive from my day. Sometimes it’s something I’m thankful for, sometimes it’s something fun I did or something that I achieved. Sometimes it’s just something really funny that happened.

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I know, horribly cheesy!

But you know what, it works! I have a hell of a lot to be positive about and although I recognise deeply all those reasons to be positive and I think about them all the time, sometimes my brain doesn’t like to let me really feel as positive about them as I want to. So the idea is that by making a point of doing this every night, I’m reinforcing my sense of how positive my life is, by acting on it.

I guess I’m sharing this because as simple as it is, I have felt a positive affect from it. It can’t fail to make you look at things a bit more positively when you realise how easy it actually is to think of something good from every day; and I’d recommend it for anyone who sometimes finds it hard to feel as positive about life, as their probably-pretty-great life should allow.

And if you’re anything like me, feeling more positive about what you do have will motivate you to work harder on achieving the things that aren’t in the jar yet!

I’ve been having a look back through my jar tonight and it turns out I’ve got a fair amount to feel good about! Here’s a few of my examples picked at random, just in case you’re interested…

“Booked up for Primrose Valley with the fam in the Summer. First time in 4 years, can’t wait!”

“Celebrating Tamara’s 25th in Hertford, catching up with uni mates”

“Saw Andrew Maxwell… at Newsham Side Club!”

“Chilling with Ethan (my nephew) in bed, doing some writing”

“Amazing dinner at Laura and Gary’s with the gang!”

“Had a great day fundraising with Nicole (my niece) and made loads of money! Nicole and I wrote her first ever blog post, too!”

“Spent the afternoon hanging out with Danni (best friend) and Sav (soon-to-be-Goddaughter)”

“Spent a couple of hours at Aunty Marion’s looking at pics of Grandma and Grandad at my age! Great to talk about how they were as Grandparents and learn about them as a young couple”

The Woes of Resting Bitch Face

So I’ve recently returned from a positively lovely weekend in Hertford visiting friends from Uni.

I traveled on the overnight National Express bus on Thursday, arriving almost without a hitch in Stevenage bus station at 7am on Friday. I was met there by Tamara – one of my housemates from first and second year – who had brought me the world’s most appreciated flask of hot, milky, sugary tea, ready for our connecting train to the beautiful Hertford. If there’s one thing you learn about each other whilst living together for two years at Uni, it’s how people like their tea! You drink a lot of that shit and you can’t be seen to be dodging putting-the-kettle-on duties. That is of course unless you’re me, as my cuppas are in many ways like snowflakes, fingerprints or a tiger’s stripes, i.e. no two cups of tea that I have ever made have been the same (in taste, colour, temperature, consistency). So I was practically begged not to make them.

In fact the first (and one of the last) times I offered to make a ’round’ of teas was in my first year of Uni and it really was a sight to behold. Although most people asked for them exactly the same we were able to spend 10 minutes once they were made arranging them in order of colour, from deepest brown to murky grey.

It’s just occurring to me now actually that it’s fairly fitting that I should meet Tamara at a bus stop after not seeing her for a few months. After all I actually met her for the first time, along with the rest of my 1st year adoptive flatmates, in the same place (a bus stop I mean, not specifically a bus stop in Stevenage – the original one was in Sunderland). It was the morning after my utterly disastrous first night out in our campus bar, where I made what you wouldn’t so much call friends, as mildly uncomfortable acquaintances whom for quite a while I harboured the desire to poke enthusiastically in the eyes. The 4 girls I went out with decided at around 1am that they didn’t want to wait any longer for a 6-seater taxi and got into a regular one, leaving me stood on my own without a clue of where I was. Anyway the next day, carrying on the theme from that gloriously Inbetweeners-esque episode, I was being the way cool guy that I always have been and heading to Uni to register on my lonesome, definitely contemplating in some dark recess of my mind calling Mammy and making her come get me; when I bumped into Becca, Fee, Sophie and Tamara, at the bus stop outside my halls. After a day that consisted of us registering then wandering aimlessly around town together struggling to understand each other’s accents, followed by the succession of rather messy nights out that comprised our Fresher’s Week, I promptly more or less moved into their flat, proceeding to use the room in my flat across the car park as a glorified (and expensive) wardrobe for the next 8 months. The rest, as they say, is history.

Anyway back to my journey, I say it went almost without a hitch because there was a bit of a dodgy 30 minutes there when we were stuck in traffic outside Milton Keynes (at 5:30am, these Southerners need to learn to go to sleep) and I was perilously close to missing my second bus from Milton Keynes to Stevenage. Thankfully I didn’t and was spared the joys of waiting in a cold and not entirely safe bus station for 4 hours, for another bus!

I’m happy to report, though, that my falling-asleep-in-public skills did come in very handy on this outgoing journey and I slept for a good few hours of it.

The return journey on Monday was a lot shorter and marginally more comfortable, which was much appreciated after a weekend during which the ratio of hours spent asleep and hours spent consuming alcohol was a very enjoyable one, but not without it’s negative consequences. I got the train from Hertford-Stevenage then Stevenage-Newcastle, followed by the Metro to Four Lane Ends and a lift home from there.

The first thing I learned from the weekend’s is that I desperately need to pass my driving test and invest in a car.

The second issue that was thrown into the limelight of my irritatingly over-active consciousness during all of this time spent on public transport, was my chronic Resting Bitch Face (RBF if you will).

Now I have been aware for a long while that I possess this affliction, so it’s not like I experienced some kind of awful epiphany whilst travelling over the weekend, about the fact that at any time when I am not actively talking to someone, smiling at something, or laughing, I tend to have – to use what I think is the most accurate and simplest description – a face-like-a-smacked-arse.

I already knew this.

The clues have always been there in the frankly unnecessary amount of times I am told by friends to smile, or – slightly but not much less often – asked if I’m OK.

I don’t know what causes this phenomenon and I know I’m not by any means the only one to experience it. I guess my face just likes to screw me over.

This is a classic example from many, many moons ago and an absolute favourite snap of mine, don’t I just look thrilled to be alive…

RBF
Resting Bitch Face (RBF) at it’s Absolute Best

Anyway, what I do know is that when you spend hours on end on your own on board public transport where there are strangers in the form of other passengers, this issue can be greatly highlighted.

I also have quite a tendency, owing to the aforementioned over-active brain and the amount of thinking that it insists on doing at all times, to stare off into the distance (or what I believe at the time is the distance) for often undetermined periods of time. Now the problem arises on occasions – and there have been many – when my eye line towards said distance happens to be inconveniently occupied by another human, or as in the following example, another passenger.

Basically what I’m saying is that when you’re sitting on a bus across from the same guy for 7 hours+ and you haven’t said hello or otherwise acknowledged him – because it’s an overnight bus and nobody wants to make small talk that will only serve to prevent themselves and others from being asleep – it comes as an unpleasant surprise when you find that said fellow passenger is looking at you uncomfortably out of the corner of their eye  – and realise that you’ve been staring straight at them, most likely looking vaguely angry, for who knows how long.

Happily this happened not long before I was able to escape from that bus and get on a different one, so I didn’t have to feel like a big weirdo for too long.

It’s no wonder really that even though I don’t think I’m too much of a social catastrophe most of the time – although I definitely do have my spectacularly embarrassing moments, much to the enjoyment of my closest friends – I can give off a not-so-agreeable first impression.

It’s not just the once that I’ve been told by a friend that when they first met me they thought I was anti-social, or not-so-diplomatically, “a bit ignorant.”

A few years ago when I worked at McDonald’s, some of my work mates broke the news that when I first started, they couldn’t believe that I was the daughter of Aileen, one of their favourite semi-regular customers, because Aileen was really nice!

I think the problem is that I’m shy and nervy when I first meet people but I don’t think that comes across, as I’m also really quite chatty and loud, pretty much at all times. And especially when I’m nervous, call it a defence mechanism. So mix that together with an accidentally constant Resting Bitch Face and you can see why I may not always an immediate hit!

And let’s face it, the high sarcasm levels don’t always help.

Basically, if I was a friends character I’d be Chandler, every time!

Time to Talk – my 5 minutes

I had a rubbish morning at work today.

Over the last week or so my head has been pretty busy. I described it to my driving instructor the other day as feeling like my brain is a washing machine with two drums, one in front of the other. One is furiously spinning clockwise on the highest setting and the other’s doing the same, except it’s going round the other way. The thoughts/worries/concerns/whatever you want to call them, are at times inseparable from each other and just sort of buzz around in there, while I try to ignore them. Until one particularly persistent one escapes from the tumbling masses and sticks temporarily to the back of the glass door, demanding that I stress about it.

When my head is like this, trying to relax is pretty much futile. Watching TV or listening to music usually involves hitting pause every now and then because my internal monologue has been disrupted and I become worried that I’ve lost track of what I was worrying about. So I track back through the path of worries that lead up to the forgotten worry until I remember what it was and manage to convince myself it doesn’t need worrying about. As for reading? Let’s just say it’s a lot more difficult than it used to be. But then I suppose it is for most people. Growing up means you have things to think about and demands on your time. I doubt many adults can sit and read for 2 or 3 hours without getting distracted, like I used to as a kid. I definitely miss switching off and getting lost in a book. That’s a lot more rare these days.

Anyway when my head’s behaving in this fashion, the noticeable result is that it’s pretty hard to focus and concentrate, or to remember things. It came up in conversation when my instructor was asking me how I can be so intelligent (his words, and only shared here because it helps make the point, not because I’m an insufferably arrogant tool – I promise I’m not) and yet so ditzy and forgetful.

Well the answer’s pretty simple. Sometimes my head feels so busy with all of the completely pointless day-to-day crap that I worry about, that it actually feels like there physically isn’t room for anything new. When my head is at its worst, concentration isn’t an easy thing to achieve.

So yeah, concentration was doing its very best to allude me at work today. I was working on something that required a certain degree of brain engagement and for the first hour or so of the morning it just was not happening. Things quickly deteriorated as I allowed my mind to wander in the direction of a couple of things I needed to do when I got home.

Now I’ve had years of experience in trying to figure out how this head of mine ticks, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. Some days my brain allows me to go merrily about my business, content to work away in the background doing all the amazing things it does, reminding me to breath and blink and how to put one foot in front of the other. Other days, or sometimes even just for an hour or 2 out of a day, it becomes a wee bit more attention seeking. It fires a constant barrage of worries at me that make it a lot more difficult than I feel like it should be, to concentrate or to relax, to achieve things which require me to think about them – such as writing posts for this blog – or to switch off and enjoy hanging out with friends or family, or watching a movie.

As I said I have learned a lot of lessons about myself over the last 10+ years. One of the major silver linings that I have taken from having experienced OCD, anxiety disorders and depression, is that I know myself and what makes me happy, so much better than I would imagine most people do in their early- (OK then mid-) 20s. That doesn’t mean that
I think I understand myself completely, of course I don’t and I don’t think anyone ever really does. But I’ve pulled through from some pretty dark places and I’ve learned lessons I’ll never forget about what I need in my life – and what I don’t. For me it’s about being around my family; not ignoring the little things because I’m too busy hating the fact that I’m not perfect; and reminding myself that it’s OK to be an individual. And talking, all of the time.

Today, to address how I was feeling I took 10 minutes out and wrote down a to-do list. I hated doing it because it meant having to face up to the racing thoughts that I had been doing my best to ignore for an hour before hand. But I knew that it would help, so eventually I faced up and did it. And it did help, although I didn’t stop stressing all together and I’m still convinced now that I missed something really important.

Today has been a busy-brain day and I knew early this morning that it was going to be. I don’t have complete control over the times when my brain decides to act like this and I probably never will. But I did what I could and it allowed me to get on with the work that I needed to do. It allowed me to get on with my day and to leave work in the end in a pretty good mood, after having an afternoon that was a lot better than my morning.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well today is Time to Talk Day, and Time to Change along with other organizations are encouraging everyone to take 5 minutes out of their day to talk about mental health. It’s part of a much bigger campaign to end mental health stigma through open and honest conversation.

So this was my five minutes.

I think the Time to Talk initiative is fantastic and it’s amazingly positive for the campaign to end stigma around mental health issues, so I will be logging my 5 minutes on the Time to Change website.