Liebster Award

First off, a big thank you to Me and My Mental Health Matters for nominating me for the Liebster Award. I truly admire them and their blog for speaking so openly about mental health from a personal perspective, especially since mental health is a topic that is very close to my heart indeed!

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The general gist of this award is to help promote ‘smaller’ blogs (under 200 followers) and also discover new ones. Once you are nominated, answer the 11 questions that your nominator has set for you and then tag 11 other bloggers to take part, providing them with 11 new questions to answer (I probably got that completely wrong so take a look at the official rules here).

Onto the questions…

What inspired you to start blogging?

I initially started my previous blog ‘Above Anxiety’ because I wanted to share my experiences with mental illness, and reach out to people who were struggling in the same way that I was. I had also just finished sixth form and so had a long summer ahead of me – I needed a hobby to occupy my time with. I felt alone, isolated and cut-off from others my age and starting a blog was a way to find my own voice.

In the last month or so, I started ‘Lisa’s Reality’ because I would now like to venture into a more diverse range of topics. Mental health remains a main focus of mine but I also want to express my identity beyond my mental illness. I particularly want to share my passion for arts and crafts, as well as talking about my laughable attempt at being a university student!

How would you describe your blog in 3 words?

Relatable (I hope), light-hearted and humorous (that last one is debatable).

What do you like about blogging?

It gives me the ability to express myself. I really struggle to be myself around others and I’m always terrified of what people are going to think of me. A screen provides me with a sense of detachment from that. I can be completely myself without feeling as though somebody is judging me right then and there, and not once in my life have I felt able to do that (until I started blogging, of course!).

What do you dislike about blogging?

UGH, where do I start?! (I joke, I joke). I hate hate HATE that it’s such a numbers game. I often feel ‘inferior’ and ‘unsuccessful’ because I don’t have a massive following – it can really grate on your self-worth.

What’s your wish for the future?

Honestly? It sounds so cliche, but I just want to feel content with myself and my life. I’m not talking a massive house with an expensive car and rolling in cash (although if you’re offering…). But being able to say ‘I am proud of my accomplishments’ and to have a job which gives me a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction, those two things are extremely important to me.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Stop worrying that you’re ‘behind’ because you aren’t doing what other people your age are doing. You’re your own person and you do things at your own pace, when YOU feel ready. No, that girl isn’t ‘prettier’ than you and you don’t want to look like her, because you look like you and you’re pretty in your own way. And stop caring what others think so much, because their opinion really doesn’t matter. Your opinion of yourself on the other hand, that’s extremely important.

What advice would you give to someone new to blogging?

Write about what interest YOU, not what you think you should write about or what you think will get you more views. You will produce your best work when talking about what you truly love, and that passion will shine through in your writing. Try not to get too hung up on numbers and followers because building an audience takes time. As long as you’re enjoying blogging, that’s all that matters.

What’s your favourite blog post you’ve written so far? 

I think my post on ‘Creating a Distraction Box‘ would have to be my favourite, just because it was really fun to do (not only making the box, but also writing about making the box!). I also love that it inspired a few others to make one for themselves.

Why do you keep blogging? 

For me, the positives of blogging far outweigh the negatives (and the fact that it sometimes makes me feel a bit shit about myself). I’ve met some really awesome people online through my blog and Twitter, connected with people who share my experience with mental illness (something which I hadn’t done before) and I absolutely love having a space where I feel confident to be myself. Plus, the positive comments and messages I do get from my blog posts make it all the more worthwhile.

What’s your favourite quote?

It feels impossible to pick just one (I’m a sucker for cheesy quotes!) but one that I keep coming back to is:

‘If we wait until we are ready, we will be waiting for the rest of our lives’

This quote rings true to me because I’m always waiting for everything in my life to be ‘just right’ before I do anything (even if it’s going to have potentially positive outcomes). I need the conditions to be ‘perfect’ else I don’t think it’s worth my time, but then I never end up doing it! Yet, what I’m beginning to realise is there is no such thing as a ‘perfect time’ – there’s just now.

Of course, it’s no good overwhelming yourself and it’s important to go at your own pace, but I often find myself using ‘I’m not ready’ as an excuse to avoid the things I’m really scared of in life. Whether it’s the big things – recovery, getting a job, learning to drive – or the smaller, everyday challenges such as taking a train or making a phone call. I’ll convince myself that ‘I’m not strong enough’ to do it yet or ‘the timing isn’t right’ out of fear.

Before I know it, I’ll be 80 years old and wishing that I had just taken the opportunities presented to me when I had the chance!

How much would you say blogging has helped you?

So much! It’s allowed me to accept me for me – my hobbies, my interests, my illness. No longer do I feel ashamed for these things because through blogging, I can find people just like me, and that is really refreshing. I spent the majority of my teens feeling as though I had to be the same as everyone else, but I have since learnt that being unique and expressing yourself is actually a really brave thing.

My nominations are:

  1. Anxiety Erica
  2. Shining Star Recovery
  3. It’s Me, Colin
  4. Thoughts From ’94
  5. 365 Days of Char
  6. Jack Jacobs
  7. Tales of a Lost Explorer
  8. Liam and His Anxiety
  9. No Light Without Darkness
  10. Stumbling Mind
  11. Rolene Esteley

And my questions for you are…

  1. When and why did you start your blog?
  2. Is there any aspect of blogging which has surprised you – something you didn’t expect?
  3. Do you think you will keep blogging well into the future?
  4. If you could have one wish granted right now, what would it be?
  5. What aspirations do you have for your blog?
  6. What is your main aspiration in life?
  7. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
  8. Which accomplishment in life are you most proud of?
  9. If you could hop on a plane to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
  10. If you could go back in time and relive one event in your life, what would it be and why?
  11. What are you most looking forward to in the future?

Thanks again to Me and My Mental Health Matters for nominating me and thank you for reading.

– Lisa x

Surviving Freshers: My Experience

The prospect of starting university is a daunting one for most young people and you might not quite know what to expect in those first few weeks. All of a sudden you are thrown into an alien environment and surrounded by unfamiliar faces – it can leave you feeling a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. This experience can be made even harder if you suffer from a mental illness such as anxiety.

I know because I was in this exact situation this time last year. It was always touch and go whether or not I would make it to university last September, right up until the very last minute. I had suffered severe OCD, social anxiety and was still battling anorexia, so to say I didn’t feel quite ready to venture off into the big, wide world as an independent adult is an understatement.

Nevertheless, the pressure to keep up with friends, coupled with the dread of an entire year lacking in structure or routine (and the inevitable downward spiral that would most likely lead to) pushed me (however hesitantly) to give it a go. I’ll admit, part of me was excited to start a brand new life as a new and improved, more confident version of myself and leave the insecure, anxious Lisa behind.

(If only it had worked out that way…)

To be blunt, I found those first first weeks absolutely terrifying. I couldn’t bring myself to attend any freshers socials or lectures, in fact I could barely step foot onto campus. I locked myself away in my one-person studio flat and barely spoke to another living soul. I isolated myself, whilst everyone else seemed to find their forever-friends with ease. I felt lonely and a complete failure, convinced this was destined to be my uni experience for the next three years (three years of hell as far as I was concerned!).

Even after two weeks, I was adamant that I’d made a terrible mistake and that uni just wasn’t for me. I got as far as filling out and handing in a deferral form to the head of subject, on the condition that I would return the following year when I felt more ‘ready’ to face university. It was my temporary get-out clause and in the meantime I would figure out a way to drop-out for good. Luckily, he gave me the weekend to think about my decision (I decided to stick it out for a while) and things eventually became easier.

I forced myself to attend a week of lectures and on one fateful day (when I must have been feeling particularly brave) I approached someone on my course who was staying in the same accommodation as me. We became good friends and will be sharing a student house for second year! She then introduced me to her friend, who introduced me to her friend, who introduced me to her flatmates and before I knew it, I had a group of friends to call my own (I’m feeling a little teary writing that).

My piece of advice is this: no matter how weird you think you are or how reluctant you feel, use every ounce of your courage to approach a friendly face and say hi, because you may just find you click. Chances are, that other person is feeling pretty awkward too and is much more worried about what you think of them than what they think of you (hey, that rhymes!).

 

August Aims

I don’t know about you, but I love the feeling of possibility at the start of a new month – a blank page, a clean slate! That’s why at the beginning of each month, I am going to outline some of my goals for the next four weeks on my blog. It’s time to put July behind us and focus on the next 30 days (or is it 31? I never know) in all their unwritten glory.

Health & Happiness

My first goal for this month (and my life in general) is to grow into the healthiest and happiest version of myself. Neither of these things have been on the top of my priority list in recent years and I want to change that. Here’s a few ways in which I can make that happen:

  • Put myself and my health first. You know what they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is essential for each and every one of us and no longer will I neglect this crucial act. Meditation, mindfulness, eating well (and enough), staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep are all things I aim to do more of in August.
  • Learn to say no. This kind of leads on from my previous point, but I’m learning that it’s okay to say no to things that are unhelpful and to put my needs before those of others. This month, I’m going to be more assertive and stand my ground because I’ve spent far too much of my life letting people walk all over me in a desperate attempt to please others. Not anymore!

Read More!

Knowledge is power and reading is something I definitely don’t do enough of. I like to read and discover new things, yet often lack the motivation and concentration to actually pick up a book, sit with it and READ THE WORDS! In order to get myself into a routine of reading, I’m going to set aside half an hour each day to remove all distractions and get lost in a book.

Appreciate the Little Things

It’s the little things that count, and this is something I’m beginning to appreciate more and more the older I become. I’m going to try and stop wanting and wishing for more, and instead appreciate the little moments each day that make life worth getting out of bed for. Adding more things to my life is not going to make me feel more content, but a good chat with a friend or taking an evening walk in the sun may just help to do that!

What are your aims for August?

 

Monday Musings

Monday – what better day is there to reflect on the week just gone and look forward to the week ahead? On this fine Monday morning, I have decided to share with you some of the realisations I’ve had over the past week. Perhaps I could even make this into a little blog series?

Seeking Inspiration

Over the last few days I’ve been really stuck for blog ideas and generally lacking inspiration in my life. Yet what I’ve come to realise is you can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to find you, you have to go out and look for it. If I stick to the same mundane routine day in, day out, then of course I’m going to lack motivation and inspiration. It’s time to get out of my comfort zone and actively search for the things that inspire me.

Ideas:

  • Go for a walk and explore your surroundings. Take photos of the things you find interesting. You don’t need a fancy or expensive camera, your phone will do! Editing is a powerful tool and can make even the most basic images come alive.
  • Mix up your meals and try some different foods. It doesn’t have to be anything too adventurous, I’ve started by adding a few new fruits to my porridge in the morning, such as mango chunks and blueberries. You can buy fruit frozen so that it lasts you ages in the freezer – it’s a more economical way to buy fruit & veg!
  • Experience something new. Read a new book, maybe a genre you wouldn’t usually go for. Try out something crafty that you haven’t tried before like drawing or painting. Start a journal. Make something for your room or home (Pinterest is great for diy decor ideas!).

There are so many simple ways that we can enlighten our minds in our every day life. But you have to get out there and find the things that spark your interest because they are out there waiting to be found and they can’t always come to you.

‘Change Nothing, Nothing Changes’

How many times have you wished something in your life was different, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it? Well it’s easy enough for us to sit and complain but unless you put in the effort, nothing will change. Simple. At some point you have to realise that your life is in your hands only and it’s up to you to take control and shape it in the way you want to.

Trying Too Hard

I’m beginning to realise that just as it’s possible to not try enough, it’s also possible to try too hard – and that is just as, if not more, damaging. If we get too hung up on something then it’s never going to be right and we will always feel unsatisfied with our progress.

The solution?

Balance is key! I believe that in many aspects in life we must seek a healthy balance. Eat healthily but don’t be afraid to treat yourself. Care for others but don’t neglect your own needs in the process. Work hard but don’t burn yourself out.

I hope this post sprinkled a little inspiration onto your Monday morning, and do let me know if you would like this to become a regular blog series.

 

Self-love

Firstly I’d like to thank Angela (a.k.a. Unapologetically Angie) for tagging me to do this post. I must admit, I get a little excited when people tag me in things because it’s nice to know somebody has thought of me (or perhaps I’m just needy…). ANYWAY onto the questions:

1. What is the one thing getting you down at the moment?

Honestly, the fact that my mental health (or lack of) is forcing me to miss out on so many amazing experiences that I should be having at my age. I’m constantly passing on meals out, birthday celebrations and nights out with friends because it either involves food and drink or causes me too much anxiety (or in most cases, both!). I desperately want to get my life back, rather than only ever being ‘the sick one’.

2. What is something that makes you happy?

Going to a craft shop or basically anywhere that sells cute stationery. I could spend hours in a craft shop (you think I’m joking). Seeing a shelf stacked full of more multi-coloured pens than you can possibly imagine fills my heart with pure joy. And don’t even get me started on notebooks, planners and journals. Some other things that make me happy are: tea, tea and tea (and bunnies).

3. Name 3 guilty pleasures

1. Buying more pens than I need (I definitely don’t need that many pens).

2. Buying more washi tape than I need (although I would argue you can never have too much washi tape).

3. Just generally buying stuff (goodbye Mr. Overdraft). Note: I do not encourage my irresponsible spending behaviour.

4. What one thing would you like to improve about yourself?

My confidence. Self-doubt is always something I’ve struggled with throughout my teenage years, so it would be nice to be able to believe in myself a bit more!

5. When was the last time you belly laughed?

It doesn’t take much to make me laugh and I have quite a silly sense of humour so I should think it was fairly recently! I can’t think back to a specific time but chances are I was laughing at something that nobody else found funny (like my own jokes…).

6. What is your biggest insecurity/fear?

I have too many insecurities to list but if I had to choose my biggest, I would say a fear of embarrassing myself in front of people or them thinking I’m weird (is that two?). I’m cripplingly self-conscious when in social situations because I’m terrified that I’m going to do/say something that people think is bat-shit crazy!

7. Name a song that always cheers you up.

‘That’s My Girl’ by Fifth Harmony. A friend at university was obsessed with this song and sang it to no end throughout last year’s lectures which would drive me crazy but it’s also one of the happier memories I’ve taken from my first year of uni.

8. Name 3 things you like about yourself.

I’d like to think I’m a good listener and quite non-judgemental. I mean, it’s human nature that we all automatically judge people in our heads but I make an effort to analyse my judgements and consider the other person’s perspective in a situation before accepting my judgements as ‘right’. I also like that I’m a deep thinker, even though that trait is simultaneously the bane of my life and pretty much the root of all of my problems!

9. What is an achievement that has made you proud of yourself this year?

I’m proud that despite my recent relapse with anorexia, and the fact that I had to finish my university year from home, I still managed to achieve good results in first year. I’m especially proud of myself for sitting my Psychobiology exam in May and passing it because at one point I didn’t think I was going to manage to sit it!

10. Tell us your happiest memory.

When I was fourteen, we went on a family holiday on a cruise. I found the experience of looking out over the sea at sunrise & sunset absolutely magical. I don’t think anything has made me feel more at peace.

I tag anybody who would like to have a go at this themselves (code for: I’m a loner who doesn’t speak to any other bloggers).

 

Creating A Distraction Box!

Last weekend after a particularly bad dip in my mood I decided that I would make myself a distraction box. ‘What is a distraction box?‘ I hear you ask. Well, keep reading and you’ll find out! Who knows, maybe it will even inspire you to create one for yourself.

What is it & why do I need one?

There’s kind of a clue in the title: it’s a box that you fill with things designed to distract you when you’re feeling mentally overwhelmed. Anything from anxiety and panic to feeling low, it’s designed to give you something to focus on other than your negative thoughts and feelings.

The best thing is that you can make it anything you want it to be and can include within it anything that you think is going to help you. You have free reign over what goes in your box and if you enjoy crafting you can decorate it, too!

You don’t need anything fancy or expensive to make it, I just randomly gathered a few bits and bobs from around the house and got to work.

How do I do it?

I started with a shoe box which I wrapped up in parcel paper to decorate. I then proceeded to decorate my box with whatever took my fancy. Don’t be afraid to embrace your creativity and really get stuck in. There’s something liberating about feeling like a child again by covering an old shoe box with stickers!

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What should I put in it?

Once you’ve made your box look a bit more interesting, you can pick whatever you’d like to go into it. What’s inside your box is the most important part because that’s what’s going to help you when you are in desperate need of a distraction!

In mine, I included photos of my pets, family and friends and photos of good memories that I like to look back on. I also added in some postcards I’d collected from places I’ve visited, and some with positive quotes on.

Then I added little activities for me to do. Puzzle books, stress balls, a slinky (don’t ask me why I just thought it may help!) and patterns to colour in. Some may say that it’s childish but honestly I couldn’t care less as long as it helps me when my mind is all over the place!

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(I love the photo of the monkey sitting on the emergency escape route, taken in Gibraltar on a family holiday)

Hopefully my distraction box is going to come in handy and even just the process of making it and deciding what to go in it was a distraction in itself. It was fun to do something a little different for once and create something that I could put my own stamp on. I would encourage you to try making one for yourself if you ever find yourself overwhelmed with negative emotions.

Let me know if you already have your own distraction box and what you’ve included in yours, or if this post has inspired you to make one.

Mental Health Meets Modelling

Earlier this year, I was very kindly gifted a copy of ‘Washed Away: From Darkness To Light’, a memoir written by former model and turned author and advocate, Nikki DuBose. Within the book, Nikki documents some of her most personal life events, from childhood sexual abuse to revealing how the model industry fuelled her all-encompassing battle with various eating disorders.

I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to read and review it at first as I didn’t think it would be my cup of tea. I don’t have much interest in fashion or modelling and so was quick to dismiss the book in it’s entirety. The second I heard the words ‘mental health’ and ‘modelling’ in the same sentence, I couldn’t help but fear that this book might glamorise mental illness and in particular, eating disorders.

However, you know what they say: ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ and in this circumstance, that saying proved truer than ever.

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‘Washed Away’ explores a wide range of important topics far beyond what I had imagined it was going to and in a way that is real and honest. Nikki really does wear her heart on her sleeve throughout the book, so much so that you can’t help but become emotionally invested in each and every word.

She is able to convey her thoughts and feelings in such a way that you as the reader feel as though you have a front-row seat in her mind. From eating disorders to psychosis,  her accounts of her own inner battle give a truthful insight into the harsh reality of what it’s like to live with such conditions.

“…I believed that who I was as a human being was a mistake, and feelings of worthlessness replaced my natural joy.” – Nikki Dubose

Suffering from an eating disorder and other mental health conditions myself, much of the book resonated with me. Many of the evil, manipulative and self-criticising thoughts that repeatedly tormented Nikki throughout her life I could relate to as if they were my own. She isn’t afraid to delve into the reality of what it’s like to struggle with mental illness, along with describing in explicit detail the often distressing thoughts and behaviours that accompany it.

In a word, I would describe ‘Washed Away: From Darkness to Light’ as hard-hitting. It deals with some sensitive subject matters that desperately need to be given more attention within society. Despite my initial concerns, the book does not glamorise mental illness in the slightest – quite the opposite in fact. Nikki’s brutal honesty makes it a difficult read in places, yet at the same time it’s refreshing to read such a raw account of her oftentimes unsettled life.

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My favourite part of the book had to be the ‘Key Concepts’ described in the epilogue, in which Nikki outlines some essential lessons she has learnt throughout her recovery.  One concept that particularly stuck with me is when she explains how she ‘had to get rid of the victim mentality’ to progress with recovery:

Although mental health issues are not the sufferer’s fault, at some point the individual needs to take personal responsibility for his or her recovery.” – Nikki Dubose

If you choose to read ‘Washed Away’ or have even already read it, I’d love to know your thoughts. I would advise, however, that if you have ever been affected by abuse and/or mental illness, you be mindful of your own wellbeing and any potential triggers throughout the book.

 

You can find out more about Nikki DuBose and her advocacy work here.

I would like to thank Book Publicity Services for sending me a complimentary copy of the book to review on my blog.