Anxiety - A guide for sufferers and their loved ones.

According to the dictionary, anxiety is a 'feeling of worry, nervousness or unease about something with an uncertain outcome'. On the outset, the definition is pretty accurate but anxiety goes way deeper than that. I don't claim to be an expert on this, at all, but I wanted to do something to help those unsure of the disorder. Whether they're in two minds about twhether they have it, or if you have a family member or friend who suffers, or if you - unfortunately - battle anxiety on a daily basis. I have suffered from generalised anxiety ever since I can remember and have gone through some really tough stages with it, but also learnt coping mechanisms to keep it under control. If I help at least one person with this post, I'll be happy. 

My definition of anxiety is a little different to what the dictionary tells us. It's goes a lot like this ... 'ETYOWIRGBJSBFOUIVIEPUQPIEG'. Honestly, there's no pinpointing the symptoms as they are quite different for everyone. There are the 'common' few side effects of the disorder which are experienced by a lot of anxiety sufferers, but then there are some that are considered rare. You can also identify whether the symptoms affect you emotionally and/or physically. Unfortunately for me, I struggle with both. Here's a list of some of the things you may go through when feeling anxious.


Emotional 
Apprehension or dread
Trouble concentrating
Zoning out 
Overthinking
Irritability
Getting upset/crying 

Physical
Fast heart rate
Sweating 
Shaking - Spasms or Tremors
Headache
Muscle Tension 

I've listed only a few symptoms, but if you feel like you fall under some of them, just keep on reading. Don't worry, anxiety is a lot more common than even I first thought.

There's no saying what causes individuals anxiety, the spectrum is so big it's difficult to pinpoint. Every person will have their own reason as to why they feel anxious, and they'll have different coping mechanisms that are best suited to them. So, to give you an idea of what can trigger it, I'm going to talk through - very briefly I hope - my experience with anxiety and try my best to describe the process of an anxiety attack.

As stated above, I've had anxiety for as long as I can remember. I don't remember much about my early experience with the disorder but I do know that I would have attacks quite regular, especially when going to school. There were a few times I refused to go, or I'd scream the place down until I could go home. I was described as a very 'nervous child', and I remember my Mum turning to proffessionals for advice. As time went on, I never knew it was anxiety, I just knew something wasn't right, but no-one actually sat me down and told me until I went to the doctors at the beginning of this year. 

Time passed and my anxiety would constantly fluctuate depending on how my life was going, I guess. When I was struggling the most with my depression, my anxiety became so bad that I didn't want to leave the house in fear of having a panic attack in public. I would cancel plans, prolong things and basically try anything to avoid my anxiety. Unfortunately, I really didn't go the right way about it but I did eventually keep it under control, only really having an attack 3-4 times a year.

I wasn't until about 6 months ago when I realised that I was falling back into it. It was completely out of my control and my body would react before my mind would. It got to the point where I couldn't hide it anymore as I was having attacks in front of the people in my life, and that absolutely terrified me. I began to have more attacks within a short space of time and I finally realised I needed to put in some sort of action plan when I had three panic attacks lasting 2 hours in the space of 48 hours. Brutal, right? 

My triggers vary. I can be having a perfectly normal day then BAM, I'll have an attack for no reason. Or, I can be upset or mad over something and I will sit and think it over which then results in an attack. I can be unsure of my surroundings or unsure of how to do something/get somewhere and again, another attack. I could be thinking about a previous attack and trick myself into thinking it's happeneing again. I've also learnt that I'm more prone when I'm tired or when I drink alcohol. As I said, they vary a lot, sometimes without explanation - which causes a lot of frustration. 

An anxiety attack can be mild or severe. I've had my fair share of both but they pretty much start out the same and end differently depending on how quickly I can take control. The first symptom for me is a fast heart rate. My heart will beat faster and harder then usual, which then leads to a shortness of breath. When in a full blown attack, I find it very difficult to keep balanced when I'm stood up and all of my muscles tense up. I become very emotional and end up crying for a lot of the time - which is mostly frustration that it's happening again. I also find it hard to communicate as I spend a lot of the time trying to control my breathing. And that's the biggie, my breathing becomes very erratic and it takes a while for me to breathe at a normal rate. That's pretty much it I guess, it may not sound all that bad but no-one will ever understand how it is unless they've suffered from an attack before. After I've calmed down, I spend the rest of the day exhausted, my muscles ache and I completely zone out. So, there's all the technical stuff out of the way. I want to take you through coping mechanisms and how to not let your anxiety take over. 

I hope this will help sufferers, but also inform those who aren't too sure how to handle a situation when someone is having a panic attack. 

  • Breathe. It sounds so so cliche but honestly, sorting out your breathing is so important. For a while, I was able to steady my breathing pretty well just by simply inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 7. Unfortunately that no longer worked and I was introduced to a little 'game' by my cousin who helped me through an attack. Find something you can throw, anything and pass it between yourself and another person. When you throw it, inhale and exhale when you catch it. It gives you a distraction and kind of steadies your breathing without you realising.
  • Find your safe place. Mine is my bedroom. Whenever you feel an attack brewing, get yourself to the place where you find comfort and feel secure. Once you're in that environment, you'll find solace in the fact that you're somewhere familair and you know you're not in any immediate danger. If you're having an attack in public, go somewhere calming, like the library. It is difficult but make sure you're somewhere you know.
  • Distractions. Take advantage of what you love to do in your spare time. Read your favourite book, draw, write, curl up bed with a cuppa and your favourite film. Sleep also - going to bed helps especially if tiredness can be a trigger, go for a walk or a run, listen to some music. Seriously, anything you enjoy when you're in a calm state, will help bring you back to reality. Oh and these adult colouring books are a gift from God, I swear. They're incredibly relaxing and they even have some designed for anxiety suffferers. I strongly recommend them.
  • Surround yourself with people who understand. Educate those who spend a lot of time with you. Family, fellow student, partners, work collegues and friends. They need to know about it if your attacks are quite frequent. You may find that some people aren't so understanding of it but it really is just a case of ignorance, unfortunately. I've had my fair share of disputes with people who never understood it and on the odd occasion, I have cut them out of my life. However, you'll find those absolute diamonds who really help to push you through it. Give them instructions on what to do if you're having an attack. I recently shouted at my boyfriend during an attack because he was rubbing my chest, but he knew that in the spur of the moment, it's ok to tell them if they're doing something wrong. I recently had to tell my work place of my disorder, which is not something I ever wanted to do, but now even though they may not get it, they know its there.
  • Just a quick tip for those who are around someone who is suffering from an attack - just be there, don't bombard them with questions and don't dismiss the attack either. They will tell you if you're doing something wrong, but don't be offended if they seem angry at you, they're not. Reassure them you're there for them, ask them if they need anything and just wait it out. You can try to help them steady their breathing but really, they will just appreciate your presense if thats what they need.


I've spent a lot of my life being ignorant to how common and how debilitating anxiety is. It is a mental illness and it needs a hell of a lot more awareness that what it gets. I just want you to know that if you suffer from anxiety, ask for help. I recently went to my GP who reffered me to a psychiatrist and also prescribed me medication. I didn't go down the medication route - I don't really believe in fixing things with pills. But I know that help is there if I ever need it. I have gained control over my disorder again but for me, anxiety never really goes away. I question things, I think I'm annoying people, I'm scared to ask questions and sometimes I feel like I'm being questioned by others. I know I'll have this for the rest of my life but I feel really optimistic that if I go through a bad stage like I did at Christmas, I can get through it with the help and support of others, but also with the self belief and strength that I have. 

I really hope this post has helped some of you, and I want you to know that I'm always willing to help those who are suffering too. Anxiety can be very isolating but you really shouldn't suffer in silence. You are in control, don't forget that. Don't let your anxiety take over. Here's a little something

 
 
 A bit of a deep post for a Tuesday evening but like I said, I hope it's helped. Whether you've been educated or had a realisation, thank you for reafing. Keep an eye out for next weeks post!
Until then, you can find me on twitter and instagram 

Love, Melissa x

19 things every University graduate may experience - 1 year on

It's been almost 1 year since I finished University, walked into the 'real world' and now I'm finding myself nearing my 22nd birthday. I don't understand how quickly I've had to grow up and become an actual adult - not having my 'student' status to fall back on - but let me share with you what I've learnt in what has been a gruelling but rewarding year... 

  1. You're able to travel, whenever you want. Being in University holds you back from going to new places, with deadlines and lectures getting in the way of holidays. Once you graduate, the only thing holding you back is booking time off work which is so easy to do. Now, you can compulsively book at trip to wherever you want without thinking about missing too many lectures.
  2. You soon realise you can't drink as much as you used to. When I was in Uni, I was able to drink 2 cocktail pitchers and 8 sambuca shots in one night and still be standing. Now, I have 3 pints and I'm drunk as a skunk. Your alcohol tolerance goes waaaaay down and you realise you're not a teenager anymore.
  3. You discover who is worth sticking around for. It's true when they say that you make friends for life when you're at Uni. What they fail to tell you is that life gets in the way and you realise who is worth your time based on how they fit you into their life. I've lost friendships since leaving Uni, not because I - or they - wanted to, but being an adult you sort out priorities and sometimes it just doesn't work out. As sad as that is, I know that if a reunion was ever to happen, it'll be like nothing has changed.
  4. You will end up choosing a night in over a night out. You'll find that curling up with a blanket and watching films is more appealing that getting glammed up, dancing the night away, drinking too much and leaving the club at 5am.
  5. Nights out, however, will be more of a big deal. Juggling a social night life with a full time job is difficult but it makes it more enjoyable and fun to do it every once in a while.
  6. Slowly but surely, your Facebook feed will be filled with engagements, pregnancies and couples moving in. Adult life really comes into play when you finish Uni, and so do the babies, weddings and new houses. It's a real eye opener at times but absolutely lovely when you see your friends so happy.
  7. Hurrah! A normal sleeping pattern. Kind of. Gone are the days of slumming it until 4am then waking up past midday. Working a full time job actually requires sleep, trust me.
  8. Talking about working full time, it's nice to earn money that is actually YOURS. You can budget properly and spend your money more sensibly. You will have an itch sometimes where you want student life again but there is something kinda nice about doing well for yourself.
  9. Unemployment. Honestly, the worst time of my life was looking for a job - ANY job - when I graduated. I spent around 4 months looking and I was absolutely miserable. It will happen though, but stick at it, a job will come round soon enough.
  10. One of the worst things about graduating is people asking the dreaded question ... What are you doing now then? I recently went back to Uni to watch a performance and pretty much everyone asked whether I'd done any theatre work. But, the real world is different. Yes, I'm working at a job that I really enjoy but it's not what I want to do forever. But that's okay. Don't forget that you're still young. Not getting a job relating to your degree straight away is more common than you'd think.
  11. For those that lived away, moving back in with your parents will make you realise how independant you've become. It's nice, being back home, but I can assure you, it won't be long before you want to live independently again. University really helps young adults leave the nest and do their own thing.
  12. No more studying or lectures means you can actually spend time with loved ones. When I was at Uni, I struggled a lot trying to juggle my relationships outside of my little University bubble. Seeing more of loved ones is a real treat.
  13. Going back to number 10, you may doubt sometimes whether the time and money was worth it. I've thought to myself  'I studied a 3 year degree, put so much effort into it, ended up thousands of pounds in debt and now I work in a coffee shop'. Never doubt your degree, it will always come in handy - in your career and everyday life.
  14. Days off are way more precious. Honestly, I went to Uni about 3 days a week and spent a lot of my time just doing nothing in my second year. Now, having a day off from work is time to do things, not just laze about on the sofa all day.
  15. You may have a 'I can't afford food, bills are too expensive, I hate early mornings, I don't like being an adult' breakdown. You're not the only one.
  16. You will realise that the entire world is yours now. You can do absolutely anything you want if you put your mind to and work hard enough. There's a strange kind of freedom to being out of education. If you're like me, I've spent more of my life in education than not, and it's really refreshing to not have that commitment.
  17. Those couples who seemed strong will break up, and people you never expected to, will get together. Relationships can change drastically. I spent most of my life being the single friend and that was fine. Then as soon as I graduated, I found myself in a relationship and fell in love. It's not what I expected but I'm really happy.
  18. Deep down, you wouldn't change your time at University for the world. One night, you'll be in a club and a song will come on that will take you right back to your first Freshers week and you'll realise that there will always be a student inside you somewhere.
Thank you for reading, I hope you all enjoyed this post. Let me know if you want to see anything in particular. 
Until then, catch me on twitter and instagram 

Love, Melissa x


Persevere.



Just over 3 years ago I was in bed at 8am constantly refreshing my screen with my heart in my throat and my hands shaking. I knew it wouldn't come through until half an hour later but I knew that my whole life depended on the words on my screen. at 8:30am I'd found out. I got into University. 

3 years later, I was reliving it. Logging onto my University portal and waiting rather impatiently to see how I'd done. I graduated with a 2:1 Bachelors degree in Drama. 

Acting has been my 'be all and end all' ever since I can remember. Since being a little girl, I've dreamt of being on stage and performing for the rest of my life. I studied it in school, in 6th form and there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to study it at a degree level. There were so many things in my way, personal demons, family life, you name it, but nothing changed the passion I have for performance. And now? I have worked my absolute arse off to come out with a degree that I am really proud of.

If anyone told me 6 years ago that I would have made it this far, I would've laughed in their face. I was going through the hardest time in my life, battling with depression and a constant doubt in myself that I couldn't get where I wanted to be. I couldn't do what I wanted. I was at my lowest point when I was doing my A-Levels and it seemed as though I wasn't strong enough to be the person I so longed to be. You see, mental health has always had a stigma with it, and I'm afraid that it always will, but no-one really knows what it's like unless you experience it yourself. No matter how many times someone told me I was good enough, I didn't believe them. Everytime someone told me that it would get better, I didn't believe them. I was going through my GCSE's with a feeling at the back of my mind that I wouldn't get into 6th form. I spent my entire two years at 6th form with the same, but a more intense, feeling that I wouldn't pass my A-Levels and get into University. I sat at the computer yesterday with a quiet confidence but still terrified that, somehow, I wouldn't get a degree.

6 years later, I've been recovering from depression for almost 3 years now. I'm not that person anymore and I've finally become the woman that I've always longed to be. I don't know why I decided to post something so personal, but I feel like I really wanted to for the sake of those who are struggling. Not necessarily from mental illness, maybe from self doubt or you're going through stress with studies or work. All those people who tell you that you can do it, THEY'RE RIGHT. All those people who tell you that it gets better, guess what, they're right too. 

I want to share with you my top tips - on life I guess - to everyone out there who needs it. Those who want to pursue their dreams but not quite sure how, those who believe they can't get there, those who are battling with mental illness. Anyone. 

  • Take deep breaths. Whenever you feel stressed or anxious, just breathe. In for 5, out for 7. It helped me so much when I was on the brink of an anxiety attack.
  • For those struggling with deadlines, talk to a tutor and get help wherever you can. They're there to guide you as well as teach you, so use them for it.
  • Live for the day. Don't panic yourself too much about what you should be doing in a months/years time. Don't be afraid of what might go wrong, focus on what you're doing right.
  • Surround yourself with positive people, this is a big one for me. Negative people bring you down, so it's better to rid yourself of the toxic people in your life. If they want the best for you, they'll give you the best of them.
  • It's hard to get out of bed some days, but those are the days where you have to push yourself. Get up, make breakfast, have a shower and go for a walk with your music on. It will make you feel better, I promise.
  • Don't bottle your feelings up, find just one person who you can trust and talk to and confide in them whenever you need it. If they're true to you, they'll be there to help you every step of the way.
  • Celebrate your success. You got out of the house today, good on you. You passed that essay you didn't think you would, give yourself a pat on the back. You got that promotion at work, well done! You're doing ok.
  • It may be a slow process but keep going. You might be struggling for a very long time but there's always a new day ahead and quitting won't speed it up. Don't give up on yourself.
  • Don't put your happiness into someone else's hands, whether that be a partner, friend or family member. It never works.
  • Have a good cry when you need it, then down a glass of water and put on your favourite film.
  • Everything happens for a reason, some of us believe in that. But also believe that if you want something hard enough, go out and get it. Fight for what you love.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. Yes, that individual might be running their own business or has got a mortgage but hey, you're doing just fine too. And don't forget, everyone is fighting their own little battle as well. You're not alone.
  • The most important piece of advice I can give you is look after yourself. As selfish as it may sound, but put yourself first. I have a habit about caring more about the people around me and neglecting my own well being. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. People will come and go and things will change but you will always be you and the most important person that you have to look after is yourself. Love YOU.
At 21, I have achieved everything that I dreamt of but never even considered would come true. I passed my A-Levels, I kicked depressions arse, I GOT that degree. I never ever expected this to happen and I am completely overwhelmed by it all. I am the happiest I've ever been in my whole life, and even though there are still days where my self doubt creeps back in and my anxiety will start to flare up but I've now built a guard and learnt how to control it.

Now is the next step in my life. I've finished education for good and it's time to step into the real world and put my degree to use and make my way up to that stage I dreamt of since I was 5. It's scary and it's going to be hard, I know that, but if you put your mind to anything, you can do it. 

Thank you everyone for reading this post, I know it's different to my others but I felt it was important to share this with you guys because it really means a lot to me.
Until next time, catch me on twitter and instagram!

Love, Melissa x



10 thoughts every University graduate experiences.

Another week, another post. This time, I'm going to be talking about something I've been thinking of for weeks, life after education. I finished my 3 year Drama degree at the beginning of May and since then, my mind has been loaded with so many questions. I'm sure, if you've finished university this year too, one or more of these thoughts has entered your mind...


1. No more Harvard Referencing, lectures and essays! 
I'm pretty sure every single university student knows how much of a relief this is. Gone are the days where you had 3 hour lectures at 9am, all nighters to complete essays and the completely tedious task of referencing EVERYTHING. 

2. Way too much free time
Now you don't have to do any more work, you spend your days sitting around, with more spare time than you're used to. Cue getting up late and laying in bed, reevaluating absolute everything. Just me? 

3. Someone give me a job
 
And so it starts. The job hunt. Whether it's a dead end job that you want to save money for future plans or you want to dive head first into a graduate job, the hunt is painful. PAINFUL. 

4. What if my degree goes to waste?
I don't know if this is just me, but I've tried to apply my degree to post graduate jobs but all I'm seeing are teaching opportunities, which is not what I want to do. I can't help but wonder, does it really matter whether you have a degree these days? 

5. That went way too quick
Honestly, it flies by so quickly that if you shut your eyes for long enough, you'll miss it. One day you're going to your induction day, and the next you've handed in your final essay and you're graduating. Scary. 

6. I'm now in thousands of pounds worth of debt
£28,500 of it, to be exact. Someone. Shoot. Me. 

7. Can I do it again?
University really was the best 3 years of my life and if I could, I'd be a student forever. You learn so much from the course, the people you meet. You grow as a person, starting your time as a teenager and becoming a fully grown adult. Don't take advantage of it. 

8. I have made the best friends in the world
At this point now, you will have made friends that you know are going to be in your life forever. They'll be at your wedding, you'll meet each others children, you'll experience more milestones. And it's lovely. 

9. I'm not a student anymore...
Gone are the days of student discount, rolling in at 4am on a school night, sleeping in until noon and eating ready meals. This is the real world now and it's equally exciting as it is terrifying. 

10. Now what? 
Now, your life begins. You've finished 16 years worth of education and you now have the opportunity to pursue your career, your goals and your ambitions. Yes, it's absolutely terrifying, trust me, I know. You'll spend days stuck in a rut, scared you won't be able to achieve your dreams. Wallow for so long, that's ok. But as long as you have the skills, passion and determination, life can be amazing. So go out and grab it.


So there we have it! I hope you liked this post, let me know what you think in the comments! I quite like the idea of doing these 'list' posts, I enjoyed making this one! 
Until Sunday, catch me on twitter and instagram

Love, Melissa x

Race For Life 2015!

Hello everyone! I hope you've all had a wonderful week! For today's post, I'm going to be doing something a little different... 

Today, myself and my cousin, Lucy, completed the 10K Race For Life at Temple Newsam in Leeds. Lucy had taken part in previous events but it was the first time I'd ever done anything like it! I was so eager to do it this year in memory of my wonderful Grandma. She unfortunately lost her long battle to cancer last year, after 3 separate diagnoses and years of battling. Our family lost the greatest woman we've ever known. She was a mother, grandma, great-grandma, sister, auntie and our friend. So, to pay homage to her and how hard she fought against this terrible disease, I really wanted to take part! We've received so much support and I'd like to thank each and everyone of you who has sponsored us and helped us raise over £150! You can still do so over on my Just Giving page, if you're feeling generous!

So, whilst walking 10k, I thought it would be a good idea to document it by filming along the way, so here it is! I put this little video together to keep as a memory but also for our family and friends who would like to see how we did! 


It's safe to say that we came across some very inspirational people whilst making our way around the course! It was heartwarming seeing all the people running for those who have been affected by cancer and it's something I'd like to do every year from now on! For now, I'm going to relax and bathe my feet because exercise doesn't agree too well with me and I'm positively knackered!


Thanks again to everyone, especially my Auntie (who was our photographer for the day!) and Uncle who took us to the venue and cheered us on along the way! I hope you enjoy this post and I'll see you all next Wednesday for a new post! 
Until then, catch me on twitter and instagram!

Love, Melissa x

Melissa's Survival Guide - University!

Hello everyone! I hope you all have had a lovely week. For this weeks post I thought I would share what I've learnt whilst being a University student in the hope that it helps those who are thinking of going and relates to those who attend already. I'm coming to the end of my education this year (and I'm starting a new semester tomorrow), so what better way to start by sharing my advice! Here goes....

  1. If I could give you any 'academic' advice, it's to read. You will be given a list of texts to read throughout your time at Uni. Now, for me, I didn't read half as much as I should. But, seriously, no matter how tedious, read as much as you can.
  2. If you're living away from home, make sure you keep in touch with your parents. You will miss them. But, don't tell them about all of your antics.
  3.  For the love of god, budget your money and make it last as long as you can!
  4. It's important to make new friends and socialise with others, make as many friends as you can. It's scary moving in with complete strangers but once you get to know each other, you'll make friends for life.
  5. However, living with people who have different traits to you can be difficult. Learn to be lenient with them, whether they're messy and don't clean up after themselves, just try relax about it. However, if it gets intolerable, tell them!
  6. It's ok to go out and get absolutely hammered and not remember what you did the night before.
  7. It's also ok to stay in and have an early night. If you don't want to go out, you don't have to.
  8. There will be times when you do an all nighter in the library and take half of the confectionery aisle in with you.
  9. Please, don't leave your work to the last minute. This isn't like school or college, the sooner you start, the better.
  10. Prepare yourself for Freshers week. It will be the best and worst week of your life. And, make sure you take part every year.
  11. At some point, you will doubt yourself and whether you actually want to be at University. I went through that stage in my first year. Stick it out for as long as you can. If not, just remember that University isn't for everyone.
  12. If you find yourself struggling, talk to your tutors and ask them for advice, it's what they are there for.
  13. Don't shot vodka, trust me.
  14. Subscribe to Netflix, it will become your best friend.
  15. Caffiene will save you from the early morning starts, make sure you stock up.
  16. Your first year doesn't count towards your final degree. Don't slack off. Your first year is a good opportunity to show your tutors how dedicated you are to your degree.
  17. You will fall out and disagree with your flatmates. Argue and move on.
  18. It's ok to sit and eat a whole packet of Jammie Dodgers in one sitting, same with Pringles. and family size bags of crisps.
  19. You will learn more about yourself within the next three years than you ever have in your whole life.
  20. University will be the best time of your life, you make the best friends you'll ever have. It sets you up for your future and you will always wish to redo the 3 years again, even if it is so you can be a student again! If you stick it out and get that degree, fabulous. Don't wish the time away, you'll miss it before it's over. 

Thank you for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you think and what you would like to see next. 
Until next week, catch me on twitter and instagram 

Love, Melissa x