A review of 2017.

This year has been beautiful, extraordinary, healing and empowering. It has also been a year of growth, of learning how to be strong, and of tackling things head on. I am so very grateful for 2017. It has been my favourite year yet. Since it’s the last day of the year, I’m going to share some little (ish!) but meaningful parts of this past year.

Getting married! This year started off extremely exciting (also extremely stressful) with our wedding and honeymoon in February. We spent all of January preparing, from making decorations and our own flower bouquets, to organising all the more logistical aspects. Planning a wedding is tough work! However, our special day was more wonderful than we ever could have hoped, and we were lucky enough to be surrounded by all the people we love. We have so much gratitude for the special people in our lives. Our wedding wasn’t expensive nor luxurious – our venue was a community hall and park – but I can’t imagine or would want it any other way.

University. This year was the furthest I have ever made it at university! I have now completed two years of my three-year degree, and next year is my final year. Previously I had completed 1.5 years at university before I had to leave due to my failing mental health, so making it through this second year in one piece was a milestone. This year I also got to give a few presentations in front of my classes, and although it was nerve-wracking at the time, I really enjoyed it, and can feel my confidence growing for public speaking. During April we went on a four-day field trip to the forest and mountains, and had an incredible experience. All thanks to recovery (it’s funny what adequate nutrition and good coping mechanisms can do), I also somehow managed to get the best grades I have ever gotten, which was a nice surprise, but something I’m trying not to base my entire academic worth upon.

Therapy. And recovery too! Aside from a very brief stint in therapy last year, this year has marked my official beginning of therapy, and consequently, recovery from anxiety and panic attacks. The skills I have gotten to learn in therapy have proved to be invaluable for not only anxiety and panic attacks, which was the initial reason I started going, but also for many other aspects of my mental health as well. My therapist is incredibly wonderful and helpful, and the endless hours spent in her office throughout the year have truly changed my life. Getting my medication switched from an SSRI to an SNRI has also made a world of difference. To begin with, therapy was terrifying, but now I am beginning to see that staying unwell is far more scary than learning to heal ever could be.

Work. Although not much has changed at work this year, I have noticed a definite change in my confidence and levels of anxiety at work. I have also made a couple of wonderful friends there who I am so thankful for.

Running. During July, August and September I began and completed the Couch to 5K program, which was wonderful! I went from barely being able to run for more than a few minutes, to running for much longer stretches at a time, and seeing a huge change in my fitness level. Running has also been extremely helpful with coping with anxiety.

Blogging and writing. November saw the beginning of this little blog, With Being Alive, a place to share an honest and authentic account about the world of living with, and recovering from mental illnesses. I have had a few blogs in the past (Tumblr was a crutch for anonymously getting what was in my head, out, during my teenage years), but nothing as open and vulnerable as this. I am so thankful for the wonderfully supportive community I have found here! They inspire and enlighten me each day.

Overall, I am grateful for 2017, and for all that it taught me. Who knows what 2018 will hold?


New Year’s Eve.

Right now it’s the morning of New Year’s Eve. We get to welcome the sun and each new morning first in our little country, which is something that makes me happy. I love mornings, as I’m definitely a morning person rather than a night person, and so each one feels like a small opportunity for a new beginning.

Today, however, is a tricky day for me. I’m trying to go about my day normally, but it’s difficult. I was hoping to write a more positive piece about this past year, and all the magical parts of it, but I couldn’t get past today, and what today means.

The thing about trauma happening on specific holidays is that it’s hard to forget the date. Not that I imagine it would be easy to forget the date of trauma on other days, but in some cases it’s related to the festivities of the specific holiday itself. It’s hard for New Year’s Eve to simply be only what it is meant to be – New Year’s Eve.

Instead of today being December 31st 2017, it’s a day defined by being three years since; an anniversary of sorts. After so many days of anxiety leading up to today, now that its here, I feel a weird kind of calm. For today, I don’t have to dread it’s approach anymore. The lead up to specific days is something that the anxiety loves.

Today, I’m going to work, and then a couple of friends are coming over tonight. Nothing I can’t handle on any other day, regardless of what the anxiety says. I would rather hide in bed today, but that won’t help to make me feel any better, and so carrying on as normal is a must.

I find solace in that other people too, all around the world, are surviving another year since whatever they have been through. Although this is sad and horrible, and must feel unbearable for so many, to not be alone in this experience is connecting and reassuring.

Perhaps today will be for making some new memories. Or maybe it will be an ordinary, unremarkable day. Maybe I’ll be able to find some small beauty in today. 

Today won’t be what today was three years ago. Today is a different day, standing at the mouth of the big wide realm of possibility. Today has begun and today will end. Today will just be. Today is just a day after all.

On the brink of being recovered.

If I stretch out far enough, my fingertips will brush against the cool air. I feel as though I’m so close. The thing is, there is no demon holding a knife to my throat to stop me from going. I am not a hostage, nor a prisoner of another entity anymore. I am free to go whenever I please. Why, then, is it so hard to break free from myself? For thousands of days I was swallowed whole, stolen into a sea of destruction and bars. I fought tooth and nail to make it back to land, to be standing on my own two feet. I have done one hundred things I never thought I could, because the eating disorder told me I couldn’t. I have rebelled, and I have found myself. Now, it is only me standing in the way. Tentatively, hesitatingly. Shuffling from foot to foot. To stay or to pass? To step forward or to buckle? The cool breeze is so sweet.

I consider myself largely recovered from my experience with an eating disorder that lasted around seven years. Not recovered in a, I’m back to who I was when I was 13 type way, because I don’t listen to Panic! At The Disco very often anymore, and nor do I still rock a side fringe. Recovery isn’t going back to exactly the person you were before the eating disorder took hold. Mental illnesses, and recovery from them, are life-changing experiences. They mould you, they shape you, and recovery strengthens you. However, I do see myself as mostly recovered because I no longer engage in eating disorder behaviours, and although the thoughts are still there (do they ever go away?), they don’t control me anymore. I’m slowly learning how to replace these lies with reality – how to tag and label them as they rudely zoom into my brain, shouting profanities about a slice of bread, a grape, a glass of water.

Am I there, fully, willingly, yet though? To be honest I’m not, and its myself that is refraining from taking just a couple more steps. Over the past few years I have fought and grown and broken down in the waves of recovery. But now, I have reached the top. The steps have never been as smooth or as gentle to take. What initially appears to be the easiest, most straightforward part of my journey; these last few steps are more meaningful and difficult than I could have imagined. To be finally leaving it all behind is a heavy gift.

Deep down, there is a part of me that snares encouragingly – “go on, do it again, just to prove you can. Sink to the depths of the eating disorder, just to make sure you’ve still got it in you.” Like, what the heck? I know that I can, all too frighteningly easily, and anyway what is worst is that this should be irrelevant because who would want to? I don’t want to. The eating disorder wants me to. I know what’s down there, and it’s desolate; dire. It’s isolation and jagged edges and an all-consuming war. I have been there before, time and time again, and upon each visit I lose a bit more of myself to it’s grasp. I don’t want to disappear again.

Where does this desire to become sick, weak and small come from, when recovery has shown me that everything worth living for comes with a full, rich life? Since beginning recovery, my relationships with family and friends have blossomed and grew. I got married, I’m able to stay at university, and I can hold down a job. I have the potential to have our babies. Recovery has given me moments of ice-cream with friends, of being able to concentrate in class, of going swimming. Recovery has given me everything, when all the eating disorder did was take and shred and scream. Why does this tiny part of me crave to become nothingness, when I have worked so hard to escape and become a person, rather than a shell?

This is what’s holding me back from saying, “I did it, I beat it, I survived an eating disorder.” I want to be that so badly. But her cruel fingers beckon, and her words twist, snaking around my now lack of a thigh gap, and jeans two sizes bigger. When will she ever let go? When will I have the courage to let go?

Right now, I’m proud to say that I think I have a pretty good relationship with food. I’m working on my body image everyday, and I don’t over-exercise anymore. I can recognise and ignore most of the eating disorder thoughts. I’m good at tuning out during diet talk, and at pretending that I don’t mind my body. In all traditional senses, I’m recovered, I’m new, I’m a healthy person in a healthy person body. But it’s my mind that has been unwell. And my mind has the power to infect the rest of me.

The competitive nature of many eating disorders means that we can never win playing their game. We are never thin enough, hungry enough, full enough, good enough. Rock bottom is never low enough or sharp enough; we will always fall too far but it’s never far enough. Where does this leave recovery, then? If the pits of hell is not punishment enough for the eating disorder, then how can I ever be far enough away from the person I once was, to consider myself recovered?

Although these moments of craving and longing are small, they are big in intensity, and their lure frightens me. Within this temptation, the past seen through rose-tinted lenses, and everything is glorified; romanticized. What if I give up everything and become nothing all over again, just over a few rolling punches aimed at my brain? I am so afraid of losing everything during a moment of weakness, of falling into a trap.

In these fleeting, brief moments where I wonder why it all matters, why not lose every bit of myself that I hate by starving myself once again, I stop. I stop and I look at my husband across the room, telling a lame joke that will make me laugh too hard, and playing the music that he wants to share with me too loudly. I stop and I look in my planner, and see all the birthdays, parties and dinners, moments with the people I love, waiting to be made. I stop and I look at photos of my dog and think of how much I love taking her to the beach, and trying to coax her into the water. I stop and I softly whisper our future babies names under my breath “A, L, K.” I stop, and here I am. On the brink of being recovered.

Missed medication and recovery curveballs.

Sometimes recovery really is all over the place. Sometimes it’s messy. It’s uneven. It leaves much to be desired. Sometimes recovery feels like falling backwards, and sometimes it even is heading backwards for a while. Recovery is dynamic, changing, just as we humans are not static creatures. Our experiences parallel this.

On this blog, I try to have an optimistic outlook of recovery as a process, and all its ups and downs. I’m getting used to focusing on the stages of the process, which is good, however I need to remember that this trend line isn’t straight. It’s pointing in the right direction, but it’s a rollercoaster to get there.

A few nights ago, it was one of those nights. I felt as though I was back to square one, smack bang down where I started. One little blip, episode, moment, whatever you want to call it, really isn’t that major in the big scheme of things. But at the time, it can feel as though everything is crashing down, that everything is crumbling, and that all is against us. All of a sudden we feel alone, stuck, a shadow of who we have worked so hard to become.

To help manage a number of symptoms, I take the SNRI Venlafaxine every day at the same time. I have always stuck to this, and have never missed a dose. I have been warned, profusely, about the side-effects of missing a dose. These side-effects are apparently greater in intensity than most SSRI medications, as Venlafaxine has a very short biological half-life, meaning that it is metabolised and eliminated from our systems quickly. Therefore, taking a dose late or missing it altogether means that the side-effects of withdrawal are intense, and can come about quicker than expected.

Woman Wearing Black Jacket Beside Green Leaved Trees

One morning, I forgot to take Venlafaxine. It had completely slipped my mind, which is very unlike me. I went about my day fine, and it wasn’t until I began work in the evening that I realised that something wasn’t right. Every movement caused this whooshy sensation and dizziness, so even just looking to the side would cause everything to flip and spin. My coordination was a bit off too, as I kept dropping things, and also kept getting words all muddled up. It was scary, as I haven’t experienced this before. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that I had forgotten to take my medication.

To cut a long, embarrassing story short, I ended up having a panic attack and leaving work early. My managers and supervisor were so, so lovely. I felt so guilty about what I put them through, but they were so kind and understanding. I am so very grateful for them. I have had a couple of panic attacks at work, however each time I am amazed at how supportive my colleagues are. The next day I’m always a bit nervous about going back, about what people will think of me, but each time they treat me normally and the same as always, and that makes it so much easier.

It’s interesting how big of an influence Venlafaxine has on my body. Not only does it enable me to work on my recovery, rather than merely existing on the brink of survival, but also it simply has changed me. Venlafaxine has changed my life, for the better, and I am so thankful that I have access to this medication which I need.

In the moment, it’s easy to think that we haven’t changed at all, and that mental illnesses will always reign over us and have complete control. It is instances like this night at work that remind me that difficult things still happen, but I have the tools to handle them now. Recovery is all over the place, but that’s how it’s supposed to be. It changes us in the process. Are we all the better for it? Who knows. But one thing is for sure – it makes us strong.

Mental health goals for 2018.

With 2018 right around the corner (I can see it waving a hand and saying “Hello! Are you ready yet?”), now seems like a good time to create some goals for next year. Although I have many goals I’m setting for new year, I wanted to give some time especially for the goals that I know will have the biggest impact – these being about my mental health. I have never set goals for my mental health before, and at first I didn’t know if it was a “right” thing to do. Are you allowed to set goals for your brain and recovery? But then I realised, that as with everything, mental health is no different. Some people have fitness goals or academic goals, and reaching these takes discipline, courage and dedication. Working on building a good mental health is no different.

My mental health goals for 2018 scare me a little bit, because I don’t know if I can achieve them. What if I’m aiming too high, too fast? However, as Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s cheesy, but it’s true. I may as well give them my all, because even if I don’t reach them entirely, at least I will be ahead of where I am today.

I have general, open-ended recovery aims, which are the foundation for the goals I have set below. These aims serve as guides for the goals, and the goals are the steps I need to take to get to where I want to be in recovery.

Two People at the Seashore during Dawn

In my recovery, I am aiming for growth, confidence and resilience.

I am aiming to continue working on anxiety and depression.

I am aiming to have another year of being self-harm free under my belt, and to still be in a stable, recovered point from the eating disorder.

I am aiming to start tackling dermatillomania.

I am aiming to be kinder to myself, to become more body positive, and to be in a healthy, strong place mentally so I can be a good example to our future babies.

The goals below will hopefully led me in the direction I’m aiming:

Affirming and constructive self-talk. This one is probably the most difficult I have set. My self-talk is, well, rubbish to put it frankly. It’s kind of like the vandalism on the public bathroom walls, all nasty and useless and scrawling. I’m hoping to improve this by identifying the thoughts that aren’t mine, authentically, but rather are those of anxiety. I’m also hoping to improve this by using facts, differentiating emotions from reality, and maybe even doing some more pep talks too!

Autogenic Training. I’m excited for this! I have only been doing Autogenic Training for a little while, but already is has been wonderful. It helps with getting your body to relax as you ask it to, and it’s a good medium for people like me who find more traditional meditation tough.

Accomplishment and gratitude lists. For a couple of weeks now, I have been doing this most nights just before I go to sleep. It’s getting a lot easier, and is helping to build my confidence and create a good self-esteem. It also helps me to see that every day is not all bad, you know.

Self-care. Self care for me means eating and drinking when I need, prioritising sleep, taking my medication, and completing those small tasks that need to get done, but the anxiety is all loud and annoying about them.

Skin care routine. This one may have you wondering. Skin care? Mental health? The last time I checked, they were two different things too. However, with dermatillomania, my face is one of my most targeted areas. Alongside my goal to work on dermatillomania, I am hoping to start taking care of my skin, alongside stopping destructing it.

Therapy when and as needed. Having been in weekly therapy for the most part of this year has been incredibly helpful. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s changed my life. It was so hard to start off with, to get to the point where I would accept help, but I am so happy I did. In 2018, I’d like to continue to utilise this tool as I need it. It will be far less scary this time around.

This list of goals ended up a bit longer than I had first intended! But that’s okay, as they are exciting and scary all the same. Do you have mental health goals for 2018? What are they?

Tonight, I gave myself a pep talk.

Tonight, anxiety has been hitting hard. Tis the season of giving in anxiety’s calendar too I guess! It was doing the usual debacle, of how I’m doing every single thing wrong, and how no one will want to be friends with me anymore. The classic. La de da de da.

Throughout my evening shift at work, anxiety kept throwing snide remarks of how nothing I did was good enough, how I wasn’t a good person, and how yes, this is certainly a good reason to have my heart beating fast and my hands shaking. It’s like Muriel’s sister, Joanie, from Muriel’s Wedding (anyone? It’s one of my favourites!), with her classic line – “You’re terrible, Muriel,” – at every opportunity. With every “you’re terrible, Kaitlyn,” my confidence sinks a little lower, and my hands get a bit more clammy, and I feel like I’m moving a bit too fast. All of a sudden everything will be spinning, and I’ll be spinning too, too quickly and too slowly all at once, and anxiety engulfs it’s prey.

Anxiety, would you ever shut up?

Tonight was rough. There wasn’t a particular reason that triggered anxiety. Sometimes it just happens. However, I made it through work (somehow), and on the drive home, the idea popped into my head that maybe I should say some facts out loud.

This somehow turned into a – goodbye “you’re terrible, Muriel,” and hello, Kid President style, Kaitlyn Talks To Herself Alone In Her Car, Timothy. Pep talk #1.

At first I feel awkward and weird. I’m not one of those people that chats to themselves throughout the day. I bet they would give great pep talks. I got a little nervous that the people in other cars would see me talking to myself, but then I remembered that it was dark and that headlights shadow drivers. During my first few sentences, I gave myself a couple of nervous laughs (as an audidence or a presenter, I will never know), but once I got into the flow of it, things got a lot easier.

Here’s an abridged (eg. minus my own awkward silences and nervous small talk) version of my first ever, self pep talk:


Tonight was tricky. Anxiety was being foul, and you recognised that. Anxiety was probably just heightened because of hormones or something. Hormones can do that, right? 

Anyway, what we are going to focus on right now are the facts. 

Anxiety was with you at work tonight. It was loud and destructive. But you coped with the shift. You accepted the few surprises as they arose. You managed, and survived through it all, despite anxiety saying you couldn’t over and over again.

You were able to recognise which thoughts were anxiety’s, and which were yours, which is a helpful step. Being able to distinguish anxiety’s lies from your own thoughts makes it a lot easier to argue back, to tag these messages as spam and to send them on their way.

Here’s some more facts. You are not anxiety. You are not depression. You are not self harm. You are not the eating disorder. You are not dermatillomania. Yes, these creatures reside in your brain with you (insert dramatic why oh why?), but that’s all they are. Pesky neighbourhood cats, using your front lawn as a bathroom (in retrospect, it sounds like I have something against cats, but I promise I don’t. Really). But you are in recovery now. You are learning how to speak, loudly, and that you have your own voice. You are learning that your voice is worthy and deserving, and that you don’t have to be buried under the mountain of their squabbling anymore.

The trauma and the mental illnesses that live with you, yes they suck. They are hell over and over again. However, you are not living in this hell anymore. You have found a haven, and you are learning that this haven can be yourself too. Perhaps something good will grow out of all of this someday. Already, it has made you strong. Broken, but strong enough to repair yourself again.

And that, Kaitlyn, is something to be proud of.

A couple more facts to end with:

You are a person like everyone else who you love. You make mistakes. But you are not what anxiety tells you that you are. You are worthy of love and of living.

You are strong. 

You are kind.

Kaitlyn, you’ve got this. You can keep on going.”

So there you go. There’s my funny, little, night time, driving, pep talk. By the time I was finished talking, I was really surprised. I felt calmer. I felt less anxious. I felt more in control. The whole “this talking to myself thing is stupid,” had subsided a great deal, and I was a little shocked almost at how effective it was.

From now on, I might try and imagine all the silly anxiety lies are spoken by Joanie from Muriel’s Wedding, just because it makes me giggle every time. That’s all they are, really. Something the authentic me has power over, and can laugh at.

The universe, changes, & 2018.

So much is changing for us in 2018. It’s scary and exciting, and really scary again, all at once. Next year is looming; ready and full. Moving across the country, building a house, graduation, and new jobs are all on the horizon. Well, it’s all in our plans anyway. But things don’t always go directly to plan, do they? Regardless, whatever happens, it will be new and different, as current ways are coming to the end of their season.

All of these proposed changes ignite my anxiety, small flames littering my brain, burning up hope and excitement. Drops of dread form in their place, robbing me of the ability to see these changes as good; as flowing towards a new season of life. I’m anxious about finding a job within my field, moving away from my family and friends, and graduating from university. I don’t feel ready to be doing all these things. Although it is important that I remember that they aren’t happening just yet, and that I still have plenty of time to work on what will help me cope with these changes.

abstract, art, blur

Working on building a positive self-esteem, and raising my confidence, seem like the right steps to take in preparation. Also, continuing to practice mindfulness and to work on my recovery will help immensely. This year, in the short amount of time I have been going to therapy, I have come up in leaps and bounds. I don’t feel like a shell anymore. I have hope that I am not the mental illnesses; that I have my own voice now. If my recovery has come so far, just this year, then this makes me excited for how hard I can work on it next year too. There is so much more becoming to do.

In one year, it’s likely that I will be sitting, hopefully still typing away in this little corner of the internet, but in a different house. That house will be almost 700 km away. I hope to be more content, more resilient, and more loving. I hope to be more appreciative and more confident. I hope to be achieving my mental health goals (more on those soon).

However, some things will stay the same. And they will become the warm arms of home, and of safety. My beautiful husband will still be by my side. Our dog, Ruby, will be nestled by our feet. Our family will still be our family, and our friends will still be our friends. These things aren’t going anywhere. Home is where the heart is, after all.

For now, I’m trusting in the universe. Back when I was religious, I would have prayed. But I do not have a space for religion anymore. Everything I love, and trust, is within the universe, and it’s spectacular nature. People, the trees, rivers, mountains, moments and animals. I believe in these because they give me hope. They are not perfect and nor am I. But through every change, they have been by my side, and brought light into the darkness countless times.

Universe, thank-you for 2017. I trust in you, and the changes that will arise as life ebbs and flows, in 2018.

Therapy cannot fix me. Only I can heal.

Two years ago, I was running through the rain with my boyfriend, to reach the shelter of the cinema where we were going to watch a movie. Before I knew what was happening, I slipped over, and landed backwards, straight onto my right elbow. It turns out that it was badly broken, and I’ve had two surgeries and lots of physiotherapy to get it to how it is today. Surgeons put in numerous wires and pins to try and get my bones reconnected again. These eventually had to be removed, as they had moved around inside my bone, and were dangerously close to sticking out through my skin. Yes, it was pretty gross; you could see and feel them clearly pointing out, ready to spike through at any time. It was a cool party trick though! For several months my elbow was stuck at 90 degrees, unable to move much beyond that point. Through lots of patience and work and saying kind things to it (have you ever tried talking to your right elbow?), it has gotten to where it is today. I can bend it, not fully straight, but it works nevertheless, and can put pressure on it again. Part of it is numb and has no feeling, but that’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. The scars from the surgeries are big and deep and purple, but I like them. They are just part of me. It still hurts occassionally, gets a bit stuck sometimes, and the shape of it is a bit weird compared to my left one, but it’s an elbow. It’s part of me, and my story. It’s not the same as it used to be, but it’s okay. It’s all okay.

Where am I going with this? Well I’ve been thinking lately, and elbows aren’t too different to brains. Sure, one is far more complex and diverse, while the other is lovingly nicknamed the funny bone, but they are both part of us. They both help to make us, us.

You know the classic, detrimental way of mental illnesses being treated differently to physical illnesses by society? How physical illnesses are generally prioritised and taken seriously, while mental illnesses can be seen as “not real”, or are bound in shame? Well, all this made me think that the way I should approach healing my elbow, and healing my brain – that they shouldn’t be treated all that differently after all.

With my dodgy elbow, it’s not exactly what it was like before it hit the concrete in the way no elbow should. The surgeries and physiotherapy didn’t leave it looking and feeling all brand new – in fact in both looked and felt worse than ever before during these times. To anyone who is currently experiencing physiotherapy, I admire you. That is some badass, painful stuff to go through! However, although my elbow came out of the other side of recovery remarkably different to how it went in; it coped. It is still an elbow. I have learnt how to adjust to it, and it’s little quirks. I’m thankful for all it does.

I’m going to stop writing the word “elbow” now, because not only has it gotten to the point where it’s starting to make me question if “elbow” is a real word, but also who would want to read a whole blog post solely about elbows? Anyway, in a similar way, therapy for mental illnesses cannot magically cure us. Therapy is hard work, heck it’s like physiotherapy for your brain. It will not mend our brains into invincibility, or take away all the bad things that have happened to it. Nothing can do that, sadly. But it does teach us how to cope. How to endure, and how to create meaningful, enriched lives that are not dictated by the mental illnesses and trauma. Therapy gives us the tools to find resilience for our demons, to become stronger in their presence, and to lead the lives we deserve to be living.

And I don’t think the lack of feeling “fixed” after attending therapy should cause me to consider myself as weak or forever broken. Therapy isn’t about that, it doesn’t leave you feeling brand new. It gives you the tools to better understand yourself, to call your struggles out by name and take away their power.

Courtney Bunting – The Reality of Therapy.

For some mental illnesses, recovery from them isn’t about returning to who we were before everything went bottom up. Sometimes it isn’t about, or possible, to be free of all the symptoms, forever. But it is possible to live a rich, meaningful life, despite these diagnoses. It is possible to learn how to manage them, and to continue becoming and blooming through them.

Through all this we learn:

I am creative.

I am strong.

I can keep living even when my brain is under fire.

Therapy does not fix us. This does not make us weak, but rather it empowers us to fight our own battles.

Expecting nothing and accepting everything today.

Today I woke up feeling a little flat. You know those days where there is nothing in particular wrong, but it’s like you have deflated a little? Just a bit hrmpfh. It didn’t help that I was waking up to face a ten hour shift at work, a place which is currently in a state of shambling chaos with Christmas just around the corner. I am indeed a fan of Christmas and the holiday season, but this is mildly stifled by a lack of air conditioning, guady mall decorations and too many grumpy customers. And so, it only makes sense that I was feeling a little flat, because I had already subconsciously flattened how I expected my day to go. I had automatically decided that work would be long, overly warm and tedious. Looking back, this is unfair and silly of me, to place these expectations of how my day would go, which only serves to dampen and dull how the day will actually go.

I’m not sure if all of this makes much sense. A week or two ago, I wrote about how my therapist introduced me to expecting nothing and accepting everything. Today, I decided to try and put it into practise. And what better day to start with, than one I had already accidently decided wouldn’t be that great?

My aim for the day was to keep drawing my thoughts back to neutrality; to have no expectations and just take everything as it arrived. To begin with, I practiced Autogenic Training, something I’ve been trying to get into the habit of lately. Autogenic Training is about training different parts of your body to relax, as you ask them too. Apparently it takes a while to get it right, and although I have only been doing it for a short amount of time, today I noticed it getting easier. If nothing else, it’s a good way to practice being present and focussing on what is actually happening.

While I was waiting at the bus stop this morning, an old lady came and sat next to me. She immediately started chatting about how she was going on holiday next week, and how she was meeting a friend at a gift shop later, and how warm it is in Brisbane at the moment. It was really nice to connect with a stranger for a small moment, and it felt good that we each got to brighten each other’s day.

Then, I stepped onto the bus, walked down the aisle, and picked a seat. As I sat down, I saw a man running towards me, and to my surprise it was my Great Uncle! We talked about our mutual love of David  Attenborough (although my Great Uncle does believe that the creatures of the deep sea should be left in peace, and not be showcased in a documentary), how neither of us are Star Wars fans, and he pointed out which house he used to steal clippings of their garden from! He is a person I don’t get to see very often, apart from the very occassional family gathering. It was really lovely to reconnect for the duration of a short bus journey with. Although anxiety was being all loud and fussy (quite obnoxious of it really), I did my best, and an ordinary bus journey became something a bit more special.

Work was indeed long and busy, but it wasn’t all bad. It was great to spend time with a bunch of the lovely people I work with, amongst dealing with the actual work as well. The anxiety skulked around, but I made a solid effort to practice small moments of mindfulness throughout the day, and ended up having some pretty cool conversations.

When I eventually got home, my husband and I continued wrapping the last of our Christmas presents (wrapping is one of the best parts about Christmas, right?), and then we made copious amounts of vegan nachoes, and snuggled in bed watching one of our favourite series – Fresh Meat

I’m working on not using my phone right before I go to sleep, so I read a bit of Elizabeth Knox’s Wake, a wonderful New Zealand, gorey dystopian novel (it’s so spectacularly Kiwi!), and wrote down my accomplishment and gratitude lists for the day.

Today was a good day. It was difficult to stay in the whole realm of expecting nothing and accepting everything, and I definitely wasn’t perfect at it. But it was a start, nevertheless, and today was all the more better because of it.

Small things that help my mental health.

Recovery from mental illnesses is often talked about in the bigger picture sense, and rightly so. The discussion is centred around medication, counselling and specific therapies; the nitty-gritty of recovery. These aspects of treatment or management for mental illnesses can be hugely influential on our lives. However, smaller, more day-to-day tasks can also impact our mental health greatly, which in turn can aid in learning to cope with mental illnesses.

If you think about it, little day-to-day moments can be just as significant as the bigger things in life. All of these small building blocks stack up, creating a solid foundation for recovery and healing. Without this stable ground beneath us, therapy and medication won’t be as effective, as our intentions may change from thriving and growth, to mere survival.

Mountain Ranges during Golden Hour

Here is a list of some small tasks that help to stabilise my mental health:

Getting outside. Being outside, within green and blue spaces, can work wonders for our minds. Some days it’s doing mindfulness outside, like examining leaves up really close, or counting how many different sounds I can hear. Other days, I just love to run, and really focus on how it makes me feel tired or powerful or calm.

Routine. Having a set routine of waking up and going to sleep in certain time frames every day is calming. This also includes drinking enough water and getting plenty of nutrients. We cannot expect our brains to function at their best if they aren’t getting what they need.

The Big Feels ClubThis email newsletter is funny, quirky and rad. Each one talks about mental health in a way that’s both original and relatable. It also, you know, turns you into one of those people who seem like they have their life together because they get email newsletters. It’s pretty cool.

Talking. I cannot emphasize this enough. Many mental illnesses thrive in isolation. When I’m feeling low, the last thing I want to do is talk to someone about it. But every single time that I do, it helps beyond reason. It doesn’t even have to be anything too deep, just simply reaching out, or saying lame jokes to each other works great. Be there for other people. They will be there for you too.

Mood-lifting activities. This one is different for everyone, because we each find different things comforting and safe. Lately for me it’s been watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, listening to Free by Rudimental, and writing on here. This also means staying away from what my husband has named – my “Sad Spotify Playlists” – and other things that really won’t help to keep me afloat.

What small things help your mental health day-to-day? I would love to hear about what works for you!