I wanted to start my ‘fashion blogger with M.E‘ individual posts with anxiety and depression. This is something that has played a huge part in my life for many, many years now so it’s something I’d like to share in great detail with you all and I hope it can help some of you out there in similar situations.
When I first started to get sick around the age of 13/14, it was really difficult for me to take on. Being so young at the time, I didn’t really understand how to take care of myself and how to balance things out at all. I mentioned previously that everyday for me would be filled with some type of sports outside, it didn’t matter what I was doing, I just loved to be active. Even if I didn’t have anyone to play with or anything much to do, I would run or do athletic sports instead. I was one of those kids that loved the outdoors and being active, so when I started to feel ill and tired a lot of the time, it would really get me down that I wasn’t able to go outside and play with my friends or be active in general. It would truly make me agitated and restless just staying in and watching TV or reading a book.
As the months went by, there were a few days here and there that I could go out and socialise with my friends gently and just get out for a bit, but it was short lived. Over time I lost a lot of my friends as I wasn’t really able to get out and I started to become withdrawn. Spending so much time inside, not feeling well and not socialising with many people made me really sad. School was difficult as it was mentally draining trying to concentrate and work hard, so I ended up missing a lot of my final year and not socialising much there either. It was exhausting.
I developed depression and at such a young age, I remember it was one of the worst times of my life. I used to always feel like everything was against me, no matter how much I tried to do things or wanted to do things, my body wouldn’t allow it and it was taking its toll on my mind. I’ve always been an over thinker my whole life and my brain is constantly working away, asking questions, figuring things out and I feel at ease when I can find solutions or answers, so not being able to do what I wanted to do or needed to do for that matter, was getting me down badly. There were many times where I just didn’t want to go on anymore when I was around the age of 15/16 as things felt too much for me. I really was consumed with a lot of self pity and just sadness. It is hard for me to think back on this now and actually associate that person with who I am now because that person feels so distant from me in my current mind set.
Because I was essentially house bound and not doing anything with the outside world, I developed a lot of anxiety too. This became so bad that I would actually get panic attacks when leaving the house and going somewhere where there were people. I would get frightened because I had been so withdrawn and it would scare me so much what other people thought of me in my current condition as well as being worried about having to talk to someone, understand them, etc. I started feeling this way when I attempted to go to sixth form (college) and during a very small art class, which was one of my favourite subjects, I truly couldn’t take in anything the teacher was saying. I remember sitting there, watching him and feeling like I was listening, but I couldn’t compute a single word and I ended up leaving that day and coming home really upset. This gave me even more anxiety because I felt like I wasn’t able to feed my brain, learn and simply communicate with people. There was a brick wall in my brain which wouldn’t let me process things and it was horrible.
I couldn’t answer the telephone to anyone on bad days because I couldn’t understand anything anyone was saying at the other end, and this is still something that resides with me now. I can only talk to my boyfriend, my mum or my dad on the phone because I know them really well. Not being able to make calls because I can’t see or understand the persons body language down the phone is very hard. I always find myself making up some excuse as to why I can’t use the phone when people ask to call me as telling the truth is often something not many people will understand. I’m not sure if this will be with me forever or not, but I work around it and get on with things without it, to make the most of what I have.
I did try to go out to get over my anxiety, I had child therapy for many years once I was diagnosed, which did help a huge amount actually. I felt like I was getting a bit better. When I was 17 I started to learn to drive and I passed my test after 21 lessons or so on the first go. I was driving my mums car around and had a boyfriend at the time, so I did finally feel like I was getting my confidence back. Driving was incredibly hard for me though and I would panic anytime anyone else drove near me, or waited for me to attempt to park, it would send me into a panic attack, so eventually I stopped driving. After my boyfriend and I broke up back then after 2 years together, I decided that I no longer needed a reason to put myself through the hell of driving and I haven’t driven in about 7 years or more now as it got too much for me.
I did think things were getting better, but as many M.E sufferers will know, you do relapse. It was around this time that I did start to go backwards again with my health and I lost a lot of confidence, again. I was mainly staying inside, I didn’t really have any friends to see and I started to get upset. Luckily I had found comfort online on the DenimBlog forum and made friends that way, like my current boyfriend Adam who I met there, so online friendships helped tremendously to give me some type of social activity, in a way it saved me, but as this wasn’t in person, my panic attacks were coming back full blown.
Things got so bad that even if I had gone to dinner with family, I would have a panic attack. Anything could set me off. I remember being at my grampys birthday dinner and I started to feel overwhelmed, I started crying, I couldn’t breathe, I had a lump in my throat, my heart was racing and I felt so anxious I just had to get out of the restaurant and leave. I went and sat in the car on my own. Adam and I had actually just started dating around this time, I was 19 and we were actually able to build our friendship and relationship online, as online I could truly be myself. It’s funny, I’ve always been ok with typing and speaking to someone via text, because I feel comfortable being able to read what is said and re-read it multiple times if I need to, not looking silly while I’m trying to compute. So taking our relationship into real life was definitely a challenge for me.
There was one time I remember we had picked up a sandwich to eat in Marks & Spencers as I wasn’t able to eat in a restaurant due to the overwhelming environment. We were looking for a bench to eat it on and there wasn’t one as they were all taken. This started to make me panic as the plan for the day in my head was going wrong. I could feel that lump in my throat coming back, the tears prickling my eyes, my heart racing and the sweat coming on and I just burst into tears in public. I remember this one because I was even more scared that people were going to stare at me and ask if I was ok, so I just had to quickly find somewhere quiet to hide with Adam until it had gone. He has been an amazing support to me throughout all of this, being so patient and understanding. Especially when it came to making calls for me, asking people in a shop for something or generally paying for things for me so that I didn’t have to interact with anyone.
I started another set of therapy, CBT therapy for adults, to try and help me get over my anxiety and panics and as well as Adam and my mum helping me, pushing me gently and being patient with me while we tried going outside and things like that, I started to find it easier. Back then, I would have never imagined I would have done the things I have done now, so I honestly recommend seeking out therapy if you are suffering. I personally didn’t want medication because to me, it’s not a fix, it’s a cover up. As soon as you come off the medicine, you are back to square one and I didn’t want to be reliant on tablets to get me better. I know they work for some people and I’m not dismissing them as they can help others, but for me personally it wasn’t the right choice, the therapy was. I’m very much about finding out problems, fixing problems or learning how to fix them so just doing something to mask it was not an option for me.
Over time, doing things step by step, challenging myself here and there, I was making progress. I took little baby steps, maybe just heading into a shop on my own for a minute while my mum or Adam waited outside for me, then coming back out. This was really scary, but after doing it a few times, I felt comfortable. That’s when I would step it up a notch. I would try a different shop, if I felt ok, maybe eventually pay for something on my own and then keep doing that until I felt comfortable with it. I do still have bad days, I wont lie on that and some days I don’t feel confident enough to walk into a really busy shop with a lot of people and buy something, purely because it’s overwhelming with that much energy in there and I’m not feeling very well, so there are still a few days here and there that I can’t manage it, but overall, I am so much better.
I am happy to report now that I have travelled on a train all the way from London to Italy, via Paris, stayed in Italy on holiday, socialised with everyone there, been on holiday with Adam to St. Ives, I go to London frequently for business trips, I eat out in lots of different restaurants (as long as the menu is ok) and I can now handle crowds of people, meet new people and stay focused for a period of time. I rarely ever have a panic attack anymore, unless the circumstances are bad. I had one in November/December when I wasn’t feeling well, but I pushed myself to go out to lunch anyway. The restaurant was full so we couldn’t eat there and I started worrying about where I was going to eat. We couldn’t find anywhere and I got really overwhelmed and started crying, twice actually, in town and I knew I had to come home as I wasn’t mentally strong enough that day to handle it. But that’s ok. Sometimes this will happen and I tell myself it’s fine, like a sports player gets an injury, your mind can too. All in all though, I’m so much better. Granted I never go out alone as I always need someone with me just in case, but I’m ok with that.
My outlook on life now is much better. I realised that pretty much everything is in your head and it’s your own battle with yourself, your thoughts and your brain that cause these issues for you. It’s not anyone else. Circumstances will put you into that mental state and position, but you have the control. Once I realised and understood why panic happens and I could understand it’s me that’s creating it, I was able to really change the way I think with my therapy. How you perceive the world and things around you gives you your feelings towards them and if you do get stuck in that loop of always thinking about yourself, it becomes very difficult. I now know that yes, having M.E is a daily battle and it’s not fair to have it, nobody deserves it, but look at everything I do have. I have a roof over my head, I have support from loved ones, I have food and water and mentally I can create whatever I want to. I might not have the strongest body to drive my soul on its journey, but I try to make the best of it.
My nan is a huge inspiration to me, she has MS and she can no longer walk, she finds it hard to swallow now and she gets really ill quite often and she always astounds doctors when she bounces back from illnesses. She’s in her 70’s and she is a warrior when it comes to mental strength. She’s always so happy and positive despite everything she has to go through everyday and to me, if she can do that, being in a much worse situation than I am, then I definitely can. She is one of the kindest, non judgmental people I know and I think that innocence and love for others is what makes her so strong. She’s never wrapped up in her own mind, getting down about the things she can’t do, she’s always interested in others and making the most of the things she can do. She doesn’t live her life with her ‘me brain’ as I call it. Which is now how I like to try and live my life.
I will say that my blog has opened a lot of doors for me though and helped to give me the strength and courage I needed to get better. I was going through a lot of this during the time I had my blog, unknown to all of you, so I was in therapy and I was having the panic attacks (which is why a lot of my early days photoshoots were the same location), but focusing my attention on my blog really helped me stay grounded. I loved sharing with all of you and opening it in 2010 was one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s given me freedom, a voice and the ability to help out others. Plus, opportunities to grow as a person and try to get better mentally so I can take on these challenges.
I’ve always gotten frustrated sitting and doing nothing, I can’t have nothing to do. It might be a case of too much information, but even when I visit the bathroom I have to take something to do. So if I didn’t have my blog, I’m not 100% sure that I would be as strong as I am now, but I started it because it gave me something to focus on. I’m really pleased that even from having nothing, I was able to do it and grow it into what it is today, and I want all of you to know too that you can do the same. It doesn’t have to be blogging, but you can always follow your passions and dreams, no matter what life throws at you. It’s your choice to stay positive and make the best of life in your own way under your circumstances.
Truthfully, now I know what I do, the only one that depression and anger hurts is yourself. You only have this life and this one body and it has to last you your entire lifetime, so please try and make the best of what you have. We have bad days and good days, and that’s ok. Accepting the situation and learning to arrange your life around it instead of being angry about what you can’t do is one of the key steps. I know it might seem difficult now with the M.E, but overtime, it gets better. I hope this might help some of you out there and I’m going to cover it more in other posts, but for now, I truly hope it resonates. Lorna xx.