Anxiety

So I’ve been trying to write this post for a couple of days, but struggled getting even the first words on the page.  See, I’ve battled anxiety my whole life.  Not knowingly – it’s not like I was born and as a newborn had the word “ANXIOUS” stamped across my forehead in big red letters – but seriously, how useful would that be? I was just an anxious kid – not to extremes, but enough that looking back I just see that’s how I am.

It got worse as I got older, and all culminated in what I lovingly refer to as a “shitstorm of epic proportions” when I was about 19.  I was diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder – something I don’t really share with a whole lot of people in my life, but something that is, and always will be, a small part of me.

I fought my depression, and I won.  I still have down days, but my down days are the normal kind, not the isolating loneliness they used to be.  I fought my anxiety, and backed it into a corner – it still commands a part of me, and always will, but it generally takes up residence in a small black part, and the rest of me is bright and colourful and usually enough to work through my day to day life.

When talking to other people, I explain that to me, anxiety is the ocean.  If you don’t have anxiety, you’re standing on the sand, looking out at the water and seeing how beautiful it looks.  If you have anxiety, you’re always in the water.  On a good day, you might be ankle-deep – the anxiety is lapping at your feet, and you feel it every now and again but it’s not scary.  On a bad day, it hits your thighs, your hips, your bellybutton.  It gets overwhelming, it’s tough to move, and I really have to drag myself through days like that.  On awful days, I am drowning.  The ocean is inside of me, the ocean is a part of me, the ocean is all of me.  I cannot see my way through, and I cannot even raise my hand to wave for help.

But I haven’t had a drowning day in a long time.  I use my tools (guided meditation, positive self-talk, mindfulness, and grounding exercises) to work myself into a functional member of society.  But the other night, I almost drowned all over again.

Last week was a big week for me – I started work, in a high-stress environment, with a lot of responsibility, and a whole lot of change.  And change and I have never gotten on well.  Change and I are estranged cousins and while I try to avoid it, it comes around every so often and makes things unpleasant.  So last week I walked on eggshells, and talked myself out of belly-high ocean anxiety more often than usual.  And last Saturday night, it all came crashing down.

I was supposed to head into the city to meet a friend for birthday drinks.  I got on the bus feeling okay – there were no real signs of what was about to happen, I felt a little anxious but nothing new considering I was going out in public, into a bar which in general makes my anxiety a little heightened (lots of people, affected by alcohol, being a woman walking alone in the city, not enough personal space etc etc, the list of reasons why I felt uncomfortable go on and on and on).  Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had an anxiety attack on the bus.  It wasn’t a loud or overly embarrassing one thank goodness, but when it came down to it, I was still a 24 year old woman, crying on a public transport bus.

I was mortified.  I tried everything that usually helps to calm me down – everything I mentioned above, plus music and talking to close friends which also helps me out.  Not that night.  Every time I calmed down, I set off a fresh wave of silent tears.  Eventually I gave up, I gave in, and I got off the bus in the city and walked to the opposite platform and came straight home.  I felt really defeated, and ashamed.

My mum met me halfway, bought me ice-cream, and drove me home.  I ate my ice-cream, went to bed, and slept through till the morning.  I woke up still ashamed – because I let myself get to drowning and I couldn’t really figure out why.  But at the end of the day, I am here – in this body – and even though I cried in public, today is a new day and my anxiety is only at my ankles.

So I guess I’m writing this because it’s easy to think that you can just be “cured” of anxiety and everything is fine.  There are plenty of people in my life who have no idea I suffer from anxiety – because usually, it doesn’t limit who I am or what I do.  But sometimes it does, and sometimes I have to be okay with that.

If you have any tips on self-care (which I find really important after an episode), let me know in the comments.

xx Nikki.

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You Might Be A Big Sister If…

So I’ve touched on it previously, but as well as having an older sister, I have two little siblings who are a lot younger than I am.  My brother Riley is six, and my sister Katie is five.  They’re technically half-siblings, but that phrase makes me feel all gross inside, because my love for them is definitely not halved.  If anything, it’s doubled.  The negative side to all this? They live over a thousand kilometres away, up in north Queensland, with my dad and stepmum.  It sucks, that distance, but in another way it also makes my visits super special and I really treasure the time we had together.

I was lucky enough to sneak in a visit last week – for about ten days – so I could be there when they started school for the year.  Riley started Grade 1, and Katie started prep – her first year at “big school” and she was super excited and also just a tiny bit nervous.  I absolutely loved being there and hanging out with them for those ten days even though they absolutely flew by quicker than I would’ve liked.  While I was there, I kept thinking about all these little things that some people my age would never experience, if they didn’t have much younger siblings – and I don’t want to forget some of the funny and downright silly things we do – so thought I’d document them here.

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You might be a big sister if you go to the toilet, and come out to find someone (cough, Riley, cough) perched on a pile of pillows stacked against the door so he falls into you when you open it.  You might be a big sister if you’re woken up early in the morning by knocks at your door, and your little sister comes in with sleepy eyes and bedhair, and she wants to snuggle under the covers.  You might be a big sister if you both sneak under the covers and turn on your star projector – and your little cubby lights up, and suddenly the whole world is just you, and her.

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You might be a big sister if you spend hours playing lego – building planes, and trains, and houses, and caravans, and contraptions that are actually all four of those things mixed together.  You might be a big sister if you sit on the floor of the shower, block the drain, squeeze out some soap onto the tiles and lather it into bubbles while your little brother or sister giggle excitedly.  It’s called a “bath-shower”, in case you were wondering, and it’s a Nikki specialty.

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You might be a big sister if you get super excited about loose teeth, and talk about the perks of the tooth fairy, and what she does with all the teeth she collects.  If you build forts out of pillows and blankets, if you tie a quilt around your shoulders so you’re royalty, if you host dance parties and listen to Shake It Off fifty times in a row.  I wish I was exaggerating.

You might be a big sister if you know how painful it is to say goodbye – to know it might be months before you see these little faces again, and just wish they were old enough to comprehend exactly what you mean when you say “I love you” because you mean that you would give them the stars if you could, that you’d build a world of your own making just to keep them safe, that you would carry them while your own knees buckled.  But to them love is cuddles, and kisses, and playing in the sprinkler.  To them, love is saying yes to playing the Sims on my computer and agreeing to call my character Lollipop Gumdrop.  And so I say yes to all those things, as much as I possibly can, because they’ll only want me to do it for a while.

And so I thought I’d share these things, before I forget them and they’re too big to want to do them again… and I figured I’d sign this post off with what I tell Riley and Katie every day I see them.

I love you lots and lots, and very much.

xx Nikki.

PS. My flight home got delayed over six hours – so instead of landing at 6pm like I was supposed to, I touched down on the Brisbane tarmac at 12.01am.  The only perk? Brisbane city’s lights while we hovered over the city.  It was so damn beautiful, I thought I was flying over the stars instead of underneath them.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, but I thought it was worth a shot.

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January Wrap-Up

So I’ve been incommunicado the for the past week and a half, but for a good reason.  I headed up north to visit my dad, stepmum, and little brother and sister for their first week back at school.  It was a really hectic trip because 5 and 6 year olds are exhausting, but it was so lovely to just be able to be with them and see them getting ready for school.  I can’t believe my tiny baby sister has started prep – she’s grown up so quickly.  I’ll post a few pics from my trip in a couple of days once I’ve properly unpacked – my flight was delayed six hours last night so instead of getting home around 6pm, I landed in Brisbane a little after midnight, which sucked.  The only positive really was that flying in and seeing all the city lights was just beautiful.

Anyway, now on to the reason behind this post.  As part of my new years resolutions, I set myself a reading goal.  I love reading, it’s absolutely my favourite hobby, but I find myself easily sidetracked by the internet, and particularly YouTube, so in order to make sure I do continue to read, I set myself a yearly goal of 52 books this year.  That isn’t particularly ambitious I suppose – I have managed to read more than a hundred books in one year, back in 2014, but this is also the year I am moving out and starting a new job, so I figured I’d give myself an easier goal with the hopes I’d be more likely to achieve it.  As well as documenting it on my goodreads account and my listography, I thought it would be nice to document here on the blog.

So here we go – a monthly feature of my reading wrap up! I read a total of seven books in January, which was a good month – and here they are.

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Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E Smith
This was a lovely light-hearted book to start my year of reading off on the right foot.  I thought the character development was good, although in some ways the characters remained quite flat as well.  It’s an easy read – chick-lit – although the feminist in me abhors that term.  I rated it three stars – I feel like other books have done a similar storyline with better writing.

Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins
It’s been quite a long time since I read Rebel Belle, so it took a few chapters to get me back into the swing of the plot, but I picked it up quickly.  I’m not usually into supernatural books, but I love how this one really draws upon the differences between the typical southern belle cliche and the kickass powers of the strong female characters.  Harper, the protagonist, is equal parts frustrating and awesome.  I rated it four stars.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I read this book for the first time last January and absolutely adored it.  I stumbled across it on my shelves this year and was desperate to read it again.  I love this book, I think it’s absolutely incredible and easily one of my favourite books of all time.  The pop culture references may be a little overwhelming if that’s not your thing, but as a lover of Gilmore Girls which is practically the queen of pop culture references, it’s definitely something I enjoy.  The nerd in me was rooting for Wade the entire time.  I rated it five stars on Goodreads.

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Fair warning, as a midwife myself I am aware that I am probably biased to love this book.  This book centres around three generations of women and midwives – Neva, her mother Grace, and her grandmother Floss.  While the story was a little cliche and I guessed nearly all the twists before they were revealed, I enjoyed it and the perception that birth is not an emergency as it is often seen in today’s society.  Without my love of birth stories and midwifery, I may not have loved this book quite as much as I did.  I rated this book four stars, and promptly gave it to my mother and ordered her to read it.

The Three by Sarah Lotz
This was my first foray into the horror genre, other than the Mara Dyer chronicles, which is surprising given my love of horror films.  I liked the premise of this book, but found the way it was presented was a little stilted and I honestly found it hard to piece together all the bits of information presented as it didn’t feel cohesive.  I also felt like it took a long time to reach the climax of the story and then suddenly unravelled into vagueness, and I was honestly let down by the ending.  I was definitely a little disappointed, and thought this book could’ve been more with more than it was.  Two stars.

Laurinda by Alice Pung
Laurinda is a story of a first generation Asian Australian teenager who has managed to score a scholarship at an elite private girls school.  The book felt quintessentially Australian to me, and reminded me of the melting pot of culture we really are.  I loved Lucy’s parents, and her little brother, and her character development throughout the story.  I have to admit I did not see the ending coming, which I really enjoyed, because oftentimes when there’s a twist, I figure it out before I get there and feel a little let down.  Overall, a really enjoyable read and as someone who transferred to a selective school in my senior years, I found it relatable in a lot of ways.  I rated it four stars, and would definitely recommend it.

Room by Emma Donoghue
I’m a stickler for reading the book before watching the movie, and so when I saw the trailer for Room and realised there was a book, I had to read it first, and I’m so glad I did. I read this in one day, and absolutely loved it.  I know others have found the voice of Jack to be grating and perhaps unrealistic, but I thought it was really genuine and honest, and I loved his unbiased view of the world.  I would’ve loved to have been inside his mother’s mind at times, but loved this book for everything it aimed to do.  Five stars.

And that was my month in reading! As you might be able to tell from these book picks, I tend to stick within the realm of YA literature – have you read any good books lately or have any recommendations?

Happy reading!

xx Nikki