Mental Health – A graduate’s journey through school & uni with chronic anxiety (& why writing helps)

 

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Today, I’m excited to be chatting with Chloe from Chloe Chats. Chloe’s a recent graduate who has had a really tough time with chronic anxiety.  I’m interested learning how she navigated the education system and why writing has helped her therapeutically.

 

Hi Chloe, having first met you the day you were born I’m feeling pretty old right now to see how grown up you are but delighted to welcome you onto my blog.

Hi Louise! The time does seem to just fly by – sometimes I can’t believe I’ve already graduated from university.

Firstly, let’s touch upon your anxiety – did anything specifically trigger it?

I’m someone that has had bad anxiety all my life, I can’t even explain why I feel anxious.

I can relate to that. I felt that way before I discovered mindfulness. Now, I’m a huge advocate of mental health and find it both shocking and saddening that according to the NASUWT teaching union, 96% of teachers state they have come into contact with pupils experiencing mental health issues. Did you find your teachers were understanding?

When I was at school I never told anyone about my anxiety, none of my friends or teachers knew about it. I always kept it to myself.

That must have felt like a huge burden?

Yes. I used to feel more anxious because I was worried that people didn’t understand why I wouldn’t talk so much, or why I wouldn’t join in with all the activities. The only reason I didn’t tell anyone was because at the time I didn’t understand it myself, I thought I was ‘weird’ and everyone else was normal. I used to hate myself for not being able to be like everyone else, I would be so annoyed that I couldn’t just join in with a conversation just because I was too anxious.

So at that time you didn’t have any coping techniques in place?

No. I just tried to get through the day. Even though it was only a few years ago there was hardly any information on it, no one really spoke about it like they do now.

Did you have any support?

I was lucky that in secondary school I had a good group of friends that I felt comfortable with, although things went downhill for me when I reached sixth form. I pretty much lost my main group of friends, we all split up and ended up in different form classes and from there I slowly stopped talking to them and if I did meet them at lunch I would just sit there in silence – I can’t even tell you what happened, my anxiety got the better of me.

That must have felt really lonely. The added pressure of GCSE’s and A ’Levels can’t have helped. How did you find that period?

I ended up doing a lot of the exams by myself in a room instead of the main hall with everyone else. I managed to speak to my tutor at the time and I told her how I just couldn’t cope with sitting in the big hall with everyone and so they organised me to take my exams elsewhere. This was super helpful.

Getting through your exams must have been a relief but also brought the pressure of what next?

Yes. When school was coming to an end I panicked a little because I didn’t really know what to do! I ended up going to university where I decided to do a Media and Creative Writing course. Seeing as I enjoyed my Media AS Level so much and I loved to write I thought that was a great option.

That sounds like a positive step?

I thought so but after a week of being at uni I packed up and left – my anxiety was uncontrollable. I struggled to leave my uni room and go into the kitchen to make food because I couldn’t bring myself to bump into my flat mates. I spoke to my mum and she said to do what is best for me, she did try and get me to stay longer because a week is definitely not long enough to get a feel for it. I went home but I didn’t want to feel so defeated. I called up the uni 3 weeks later and asked if I could come back, and thankfully they said yes!! So off I went back to university again – back to my same room and this time around I stuck it out and I’m so glad I did, my flatmates were lovely, I made some great friends and met my boyfriend!

That was such a courageous decision.  Did you feel more in control when you returned?

I did. The friends I made was the biggest thing that helped me. My anxiety seemed to get better but after I left uni it escalated again –and for the first time I had to put my life on hold. My panic attacks grew worse – I had them more often, my heart palpitations were non-stop, I cried a lot, I made myself physically ill because of how run-down I felt. It was at this point that I got stuck in this never-ending loop, I couldn’t see an end to it. I spent loads of time in bed and would barely eat anything, the thought of eating made me feel sick. I went to the doctors, my family looked after me, but I still couldn’t get out of this cycle. I ended up crying in the middle of a restaurant and it was so embarrassing and at that point I just said to myself this has got to stop – I need help. I reached out to my friend who I met at uni – it was handy as she is in the mental health industry. With her help I got to the stage that I felt a little better and I decided that I wanted to help others.

Which brings us to your blog. Why do you find it so beneficial?

Writing is a great coping method for me, it gives me a purpose, it keeps me busy and what I write about has helped others – I get messages from people, comments on my blog posts, and so many tweets from people saying how reading the blog posts has made them feel positive or inspired. I found it also helps to know that you’re not alone.

I honestly don’t know whether I’d have completed my first novel without the support of the WordPress community, let alone published four. Has blogging about something specific given you a sense of connection?

Definitely. I have connected with so many bloggers and it’s been fantastic to make new ‘online’ friends and to be able to talk about these issues with others.

I read your post on ‘How to boost happiness.’

That’s a great example. As I started to write what helps me feel happy it made me realise how much there actually is!

I do a similar exercise in my mindfulness classes. It’s a brave thing sharing personal posts. When I started blogging about my novel writing journey I can remember feeling absolutely terrified and so vulnerable that I was putting myself out there. How did it feel for you and has it got easier?

When I decided to publish my journey of anxiety on my blog I was terrified. I wrote it up in March, but I didn’t publish it till April because the thought of everyone knowing was a scary thought. My parents and boyfriend knew about it and one close friend but that was it. I remember I published it on a Sunday and my boyfriend was there with me and the support was overwhelming – I received so many messages from loved ones, I ended up crying a little. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and it was a positive step for me. The next thing that I was anxious about was going to work the next day because I knew a lot of colleagues had read it from Facebook likes and messages. I thought I’d walk through the door and everyone would just stare at me. However, I walked in and nothing was different, everyone spoke to me like they normally would. One of my colleagues actually came and sat by me and said ‘I just wanted to say, you’re blog post was amazing and well done for sharing it.’ I had a few others message me on our chat system we had who started to tell me that they have experienced similar things – it was great that it got people talking!  

It is! Finally, Chloe, as someone who has also suffered from anxiety I know how beneficial I have found writing, both journaling and blogging, but I also know how completely overwhelming it can feel to begin. What are your top 5 tips.

  • You don’t have to share what you write on a blog or even with anyone else. It could be that you write it up for yourself – it’s such a relief when you get out all your thoughts onto paper (or a computer) that’s been taking up all that space in your mind.
  • If you find that you’re going to bed with worries on your mind I find a great thing to do is to have a notebook by the side of your bed and write down everything that is troubling you. Sometimes writing them out can just lift that weight off your shoulders. I like to write down what is worrying me and then write some solutions next to them. This can help you have a better night’s sleep.
  • If you have a blog yourself, you can always leave posts as drafts until it feels like the right time share it. Sometimes I will have something on my mind that is worrying me and so I will write a blog post on it because it helps to ease my mind but also think that it’ll be a great post for others who might have the same worry. The reason why I would leave them as drafts for a while is because sometimes I just need to get things out of my mind and so I will just type up everything that is running through my mind – sometimes I just go on and on and it doesn’t make much sense!
  • What I have learnt from being a part the blogging community is that there is no pressure when it comes to publishing blog posts. The important thing I’ve learnt about is that you don’t need to look at your stats every day, you might have days where you don’t get as much engagement as you would like but that’s normal. There’s only so much promoting you can do, don’t burn yourself out. I have come across other bloggers where they’ve had weeks off because they’re not in the right headspace and if you find that you’re just writing posts after post just to get views then you should probably stop and think about why you started your blog to begin with.
  • The good thing about blog posts is that you can write about whatever you like, you don’t have to worry so much if readers are going to like it, of course you want your readers to enjoy it but don’t just write about something because you think that it’s popular and will get you a load of views. They’ll be people out there that won’t like your posts so much and they’ll be others that love it and relate to it. You can’t please everyone, but I feel the most important thing is that you enjoy writing it.

Chloe, It’s been such a pleasure chatting to you and thank you for being so open an honest. I’m sure many people will resonate with this post. I look forward to following your blogging journey on Chloe Chats. Good luck.

Thank you!

You can find Chloe’s blog here. Her Facebook page here. And Twitter here.

Blogger & author shenanigans- it’s more than just drinking


Yesterday, I bid my husband goodbye & jumped on a train to Birmingham for a day of drinking hanging out with bookish peeps. Writing is absolutely my dream job. I wouldn’t change it for the world but sometimes even dreams can have cracks in them and I admit that going from a hustle-bustle-busy working environment, to spending long days talking to creating characters, can feel a tad isolating at times. 


It was fabulous to catch up with old friends and have the chance to make some new ones. The book bloggers I haven’t met before, but feel I already know, were just as warm in person as they are online. I’m now even more excited about The Surrogate Blog Tour next week (and receiving my toad in the hole recipe from Joanne Robertson!


For me, the chance to grill other writers about their approach to novel writing is invaluable and after a long conversation with the lovely Barbara Copperthwaite, I came away feeling much better about something that had been troubling me about my own approach to writing a first draft, which had felt quite slap-dash. Slowly, and largely due to events like these, I’m realising we all have our own way of doing things. There is no right and wrong.

It was wonderful to hear the news that several I’d met last year had finished their novels, some  were submitting and there were 2 book deals to celebrate. Each and every writerly success I hear of gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that had nothing to do with the wine. There can never be too many books.

On the journey home, I was exhausted but happy. Feeling incredibly grateful to be a part of such a friendly and supportive community. 


Huge thanks to Kim Nash & Holly Martin for organising the event.

Share your world – Week 4 2016

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What one thing are you really glad you did yesterday?

Cleaning. It sounds boring, I know, but there’s nothing quite like snapping on a pair of marigolds and having a clean house for the weekend. (Or maybe I should get out more…)

Are you generally focused on today or tomorrow?

Being a mindfulness coach I have to say present moment all the way. I do plan for the future though. I’m quite structured.

Would you want a guardian angel/mentor? What would they tell you right now?

Yes please! They would tell me to have more faith in myself, or not to eat too many chocolate hob nobs. Perhaps both would be really good advice.

Would you rather live in a cave house or a dome house made out of glass?

Glass – I love natural light.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I am grateful for the much needed support of my friends this week. Next week? It’s an adventure and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen.

 

Share your world hosted courtesy of Cee’s Photography. Copy and paste the questions and fill in your own answers. Let’s get to know each other a little better.

Twas the night before Christmas

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Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

 

Written by Clement Moore

 

Wishing all my fellow bloggers a very Merry Christmas.

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

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When Dawn Landau invited me to take part in a gratitude blog party I didn’t need any encouragement to say yes. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for years now and it really has transformed the way I think. It can be hard some days of course to find something to be grateful for – life has a habit of knocking us down – but once we start feeling grateful, it’s like rolling a giant snowball. That warm fuzzy feeling gets bigger and bigger until it becomes part of our automatic thinking. For tips to start your own gratitude journal read this. To join in with the blog party following the instructions at the bottom of the page.

 

  1. Water – I never cease to feel humbled when I turn the tap on and fresh water runs.
  2. My children – No matter how bad things seem, they always make me smile.
  3. My husband – A great support, I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s stepped up and fed everyone when I wanted to write ‘just one more page.’
  4. Bed – I have a bad back and it’s lovely to sleep in comfort; so many don’t.
  5. Healthcare – Say what you will about the NHS I feel fortunate to have received the healthcare I have.
  6. Clothes – Clothes for luxury, for fashion – how lucky am I?
  7. Food – I do love to eat. I can’t imagine feeling hungry everyday.
  8. Climate – The UK weather is unpredictable but it allows me to grow fruit and vegetables.
  9. Electricity – Making life easier in so many ways.
  10. Books – Whether for learning or pure escapism I always support my local bookstore and library.
  11. Mistakes I’ve made and leant from – there have been many.
  12. Inventors – It blows me away to think how hard life would be without so many of the things we take for granted.
  13. Scientists – Those who work tirelessly to cure diseases and make the world a better place.
  14. Volunteers – It warms me to hear stories of volunteers, whether close to home or abroad.
  15. Kindness – A simple act of kindness really changes my day – I pay it forward when I can.
  16. Sun – As well as sustaining life, doesn’t it make you feel good to see the sunshine?
  17. Friends – Always ready to listen.
  18. Emergency services – Where would we be without our emergency response.
  19. Mindfulness – Learning this really did change my life. So grateful to my mentor.
  20. A garden – I love to be outside.
  21. Light – Reading by candlelight wouldn’t be fun – I’d probably set light to my book!
  22. Authors – It takes a crazy amount of time to create a book and I’m grateful to those that do.
  23. Time – It’s a luxury and I carve out some for myself everyday. 10 minutes at least of doing something just for me.
  24. Car – I’d feel so isolated if I couldn’t drive.
  25. Music – Live gigs, cds, vinyl – I love it all.
  26. Piano – I love to play even though my neighbours probably have their fingers in their ears.
  27. Postal service – I’m just as likely to write a friend a letter rather than an email and receiving one back is warming.
  28. Photos – So lovely to look back on – how did my children grow so quick?
  29. Laughter – An essential part of my day.
  30. Movies – Pure escapism.
  31. Memories – Thinking of something that makes me smile.
  32. Nature – I adore the countryside. The space. The air. The stillness.
  33. My cat – He comes home every 30 minutes for a cuddle before going out again.
  34. Money – I don’t have a lot, but I’m fortunate to get by.
  35. A smile – As well as making others happy it gives a real good feeling to work those facial muscles.
  36. A home – A place to hang my hat.
  37. My dog – My spaniel is ridiculously happy – all the time.
  38. Seeds – I can grow flowers, vegetables, I’ve even planted a tree or two.
  39. Education – I’m so grateful for the opportunities we have in the UK, the qualifications my son has gained this year.
  40. Spiritual gurus – The teachings of others have really improved my life.
  41. Medicine – Diseases that would have killed us can now be treated – amazing.
  42. Complementary health – It’s great to have a choice.
  43. Wildlife – I’m animal crazy. Love to feed the birds.
  44. Colour – It just makes you feel, doesn’t it?
  45. A kitchen – A place to cook, to hang out and to nourish.
  46. A hug – Nothing seems quite so bad afterwards.
  47. Shoes – When I think of those trekking for miles barefoot for food and water…
  48. Hope – ‘It’ll be ok in the end, if it isn’t ok, it isn’t the end.’
  49. The blogging community – You guys gave me the confidence to write a novel.
  50. Love – Where would we be without it?

 

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If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! 

To join the bloggers who have come together for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click here3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise.

Share your world 2015 – Week 50

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Favourite thing to photograph? Write? Or Cook?

I love to write fiction. I write non-fiction for work and writing is always a pleasure but nothing tops creating a character you root for, laugh with and weep over.

Photograph – my kids. They’ve grown so quickly.

Cook – I like to experiment. I get bored of eating the same things. And cakes. Don’t forget the cakes.

Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing? 

Yes! We had a swing in our garden, along with a see-saw, and I remember fighting with my sister over whose turn it was. (She won, she’s bigger). One of my favourite photos is me sitting on the swing while she stands behind me. We look so harmonious but I bet it didn’t last long. My cousin had a tyre swing in her garden which I loved, although I often fell off. If I see a swing now I can’t resist.

What has surprised you about blogging?

So many things. I started a blog 18 months ago with no idea what to write, if I could write. I’ve fallen in love with the blogging community – it’s so supportive. My writing has improved week by week thanks to all the helpful feedback I’ve received. I’m in the process of researching agents and publishers, looking for a good home for my recently finished first novel and have started writing my second.  I’m also self-publishing two flash fiction books next year. I don’t think I’d have got this far without you guys.

List at least five favorite desserts.

So tough. When I go out to dinner I always check out the dessert options first. Usually my lovely husband orders one he knows I’ll like so I have two!

  1. Eaton Mess
  2. Profiteroles
  3. Key Lime Pie
  4. Apple crumble and custard
  5. Trifle
  6. Hot chocolate fudge cake & vanilla ice cream.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m so grateful a friend is beta reading my manuscript again after I’ve added in a new subplot – I’ve got to the stage I can’t read it anymore!

I’m looking forward to some quality time with my family over Christmas.

 

Share your world – courtesy of Cee’s Photography. Answer the questions to join in.

Share your world – Week 49 2015

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What would be your ideal birthday present, and why?

Time spent with all three of my boys. Now they’re growing/grown up it’s difficult to get everyone together.

 

What colour would you like your bedroom to be?

It’s currently turquoise and cream which I’m happy with. I love bold colours.

 

Would you prefer snowy winters, or not, and why? 

I love the look of the snow and ice but I don’t like driving in it.

 

Would you rather go a week without bathing, but be able to change your clothes, or a week without a change of clothes, but be able to bathe?

My first thought was urghhh, neither. My second, how lucky I am to have access to running water. There are so many people in the world who can’t wash themselves or their clothes without a long trek. So, I’m going to say, without complaint, either.

 

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful I’ve had lot of social events on this week, it’s been fun, but next week I’m looking forward to some quiet nights in – I’m exhausted!

 

Share your world – courtesy of Cee”s Photography.