I said to the sun . . .

I’m going to begin with one of my all time, absolute favourite quotes – “I said to the sun, ‘Tell me about the big bang.’ The sun said, ‘it hurts to become.'” (Andrea Gibson).

And my oh my, that quote just fills me with so much power and so much strength; strength that it not my own but something that I feel as though I can be apart of.

These past two months have been a whirlwind. Everything has just been going and going, and these days have been all about hard work and consistency, and just getting stuff done. It’s exhausting, but a good sort of exhausting. It’s a normal kind of being to busy to breathe kind of exhaustion, rather than my mind is going crashing through the ground. It’s a refreshing change.

Some solid, concrete steps for the future are fitting into place. This morning I was offered a new job, and it has made our future far more secure and stable. It hasn’t sunken in yet really. It will change a lot of things, in a good way.

Lately my head has been doing so good. I feel burnt out, but not because of what’s going on within, but because I am able to do so many things beyond now. I have felt so confident and content. I don’t know what has changed. Maybe it’s all the therapy work. Maybe it’s all the pushing to change. Maybe it’s just a new season. But what I do know is that I feel more me than I can ever remember.

For years I was stuck within illnesses that took over my entire world. Every decision, perspective, and moment was controlled and dulled by their graces. I was never me. I was just trying to survive, and knew only how to exist just beneath the surface.

However today, I feel more authentic to who I am supposed to be than ever. It sounds cheesy but I don’t know how to describe it. I have been trying to stand up for myself and for what I believe is important. I am talking to people I would normally be afraid of, because I can think “what’s the worst that can happen?” and actually go ahead and do it. I’m trying to stay true to my values in all situations. Anxiety, where are you at? It’s weird but enchanting. It’s amazing how much life expands when anxiety lets you push it. I truly don’t know how all these things have changed, but for now, things are wonderful. Thinking to how things used to be – to hell and back – I don’t know how I am still in today. But heck, I am so thankful for it.

Right now I am living in these days where I don’t constantly think about and dwell on bad things that have happened, and it’s such a strange, yet absolutely amazing feeling. To have my mind not imprisoned with a reel that replays the worst on repeat – it’s crazy. I still think about these things, a lot, but they are not my every thought anymore. I’m trying to build new moments and thoughts to outgrow the old. Bad, triggering songs are being replaced with songs to make new, good memories with. My psychologist and I are working on my safety behaviors, and it’s horribly difficult but good too.

The sun has told me that I can cope, that I can survive and keep living, and today I am beginning to believe her.


More than an illness.

Sometimes mental illnesses can become so overwhelming, so all-encompassing and bold, that it can feel as though we have lost our entire selves to their entity.

During the deepest, most destructive stages of an illness, everything can feel subdued, isolated, and lacking in richness; colour. What would usually mean the world to us could become meaningless, or be a source of pain and guilt. Feelings of unworthiness and of not being good enough, to be worthy of good things in our lives, show their sneering faces.

It’s not as though any part of who we are is necessarily taken away, but rather that there is a heavy filter over ourselves and all we experience. A thick raincloud that buckets down abuse, regardless of if we are walking beneath the sun. 

Through learning how to live a full, rich life alongside whatever is going on in our brains, whether this be recovery, healing, or any word you wish to use to describe your journey, these filters can fade. They may always have a presence in our lives, but they will not always dictate our experiences, and who we become.

Something that both the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, and being deeply unwell with one, have in common, is that we can be told, whether it’s by ourselves or from others, that this is who we are. That we are depression, anxiety, self-harm, the whole shebang! That our experiences from a particular time, while being unwell, defines who we are. That our potential is tethered and capped by the arms of the mental illness. That mental illness is who we are, and who we will be.

The day that I asked my closest friends if they would like to be my bridesmaids was during my recovery. We went out to a cute little cafe, and it was the first time I had eaten out with them in about four years, and one of the first handful of times I had eaten with them at all. After we were done, I got a message from my best friend, saying that in all honesty, she didn’t think she would ever see that day come. She also said how proud she was of me, and how far I had come.

This is a person who had seen me at my worst, for years. Who saw me refusing to get help again and again, and saw how it tried to destroy everything in it’s path. Who saw me make up lie after lie after excuse as to why I couldn’t go to to certain events, and who saw my anxiety bubble over countless times when food was present. Her message meant so much to me, and to be honest, I didn’t think that day would ever come either. Of being able to do something as normal as going out to eat brunch with your best friends. 

That day gave me so much hope. And it still does, thinking back. Because when you are utterly consumed by a mental illness, it can feel as though you are the embodiment of it. That your entire past, present and future will be tormented. There is no light, there is no hope. Your horrors are all that you are.

Well I’m here to tell you that this isn’t true.

You are so much more than an illness.

Remember that the illness resides in your life, rather than you within it.

Here I am.

My name is Kaitlyn, and I experience depression, an anxiety disorder, and dermatillomania. I have largely recovered from an eating disorder and self-harm too.

This things are part of me, but they aren’t all that I am.

And that’s the same for you too.

There was a time in my life where they felt as if they made up so much of me. But it’s important to note that they weren’t everything.

I am so much more than some of the stuff that goes on in my head.

And you are too.

Think of all those little moments where you feel wonder to be alive, of all the songs you sing along to, of all the people that bring you joy.

Think of the flower that catches your eye, of what you gravitate towards, of what makes you laugh.

Think of all the times you have helped others, of when you have accomplished hard things, of when you have been honest.

This all helps to build up you too.

You can be everything beyond what mental illnesses say you can be.

You are so much more than a label.

Losing all control.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just lost all control.

If my mind completely spun into a whirlpool, and it just kept going around and around, and I went along for the ride too.

Sometimes I’m scared that’s going to happen.

Tonight while walking across the foyer at work, I suddenly thought “what would happen if I just lost it all, right here?”

Sometimes I just want to scream and self-harm and not use coping techniques, and just spiral and spiral and float away. Just to run and run and keep on going.

Sometimes I get so caught up in what I believe other people think of me, or in all the things I believe I have done wrong, and it’s hard to escape.

When I was a little kid, I used to see animals that weren’t really there.

Seals would curl around my bed, cheetahs would mark bedroom walls, and rabbits would hop across the footpath.

They wouldn’t harm me, and I wasn’t scared of them. They were just there, and I liked their company.

Tonight I wondered what would happen if I just went along with everything my mind would say to do.

To do all sorts of ridiculous things which I’m guessing would not end well.

It always gets better at some point, I know that, it’s just the very being in it which is hard.

What does all of this mean?

Am I going crazy? Am I losing my mind?

I know some people don’t like those phrases and words, and I can understand why. But this is how I feel right now.

I think I am.

Or maybe I am already there.

Some days are good days, and some days are tough. This was written a couple of days ago during one of anxiety’s rages, and I don’t usually write in the moment when things aren’t good. What matters now is that things are okay. There is rain, my husband’s arms, kind friends, a beaming sun. So many wonderful things. Life has many ebbs and flows, and we just have to find a way to keep on going.

Stretching towards good things.

For my fellow anxiety warriors out there, we all know of the havoc and the chaos that anxiety can cause within the brain. Anxiety upturns tables, throws chairs across the room, splatters of badly-tinted paint on the walls. All during events like talking to a friend, brushing your teeth, or laying in bed. Chaos! Everywhere! Anxiety is a messy creature, who tries to ruin a heck of a lot.

Although the mind is hit awfully hard during bouts (or continuous stretches of desert) of anxiety, our bodies also unfortunately take a whallopping too. The physical symptoms of anxiety are also too real; just as much so as those that are invisible to everyone else. The dizziness, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, and heart pounding, just to name a few – are all down to anxiety walking on in without knocking, rudely exclaiming “I’m here! Are you ready for me?”

Day 5 – Stretch all your muscles.

The tension that stems from anxiety is one of the most prominent, physical factors of having Generalised Anxiety Disorder, for me personally. And this tension definitely does not help to get the anxiety to go away, in any way, shape or form. In fact, it kind of feels like it helps anxiety to hold onto the railing aboard, snuggling it in tight and close.
Whenever I’m anxious, regardless of the situation, my shoulders rise up. It’s like an automatic button, my brain explaining “You know what would definitely help in this situation? Shoulders up! Now!” A lot of the time I don’t realise I’m doing it, until I find my shoulders aching a few hours later, and I realise they have been unnaturally around my ears for way too long. There’s a reason that our shoulders aren’t attached to our ears, brain.

The hours and day after a panic attack are also prone to tension. Painful, achy tension that runs through my whole body. During panic attacks, the rigidness, shaking and tension leaves my muscles feeling not very happy at all, and the footprint of the tension continues long after the panic attack is over.
All the tension that anxiety so kindly provides, and the pain that goes along with it, means that we have a tough job to stop tension in the first place, before subsiding it’s consequences. What better thing to do that to literally force our bodies out of their tension poses, and stretch it all out?

One of my favourite things to do as a kid would be to get all stretchy and flexible and see what sort of weird shapes I could muster myself into. Backbends (or the wheel pose), shoulderstands and plough poses where my favourites. Of course I had no idea what they were called at the time, and had to Google some weird phrases to try find out their names. Writing about how I would lay on my shoulders with my hands on the ground, and stick my legs up in the air, would be a bit confusing otherwise!

I would love playing around on the lounge floor, seeing how far I could stretch and trying out different poses with my friends. It was such a fun thing to do, and playing around and being silly are things I think we all need more of as adults.

Stretching can not only be good for reducing tension in the body, but also in the mind. Focusing on how your body feels at each step, how your legs may feel light in one way, and your arms relaxed in another, all contribute to a sense of mindfulness. It all is helping us to be in the present, acknowledging what’s going on right now and how it feels, rather than thinking about something 239 days ago, or in two years.

With all this in mind, and feeling like some sort of stretching pro just waiting to turn from a caterpillar into a butterfly, I took on this task of self-care.

And it was so much fun!

I tried my hand at more shoulderstands and backbends, and basically flailed my limbs in crazy directions, doing kicks and twirls. It seemed to turn into a cross between dance and yoga?

In reflection I’ll start off by saying that the whole caterpillar into a butterfly thing definitely didn’t work out. But that’s okay, because I’m not the biggest fan of butterflies anyway (they are nice in photos or farawary, just not anywhere near me), so I’ll stick with my caterpillar status. 

Me being a caterpillar had a great time flailing along the ground, limbs in all directions, cursing at the people in the pictures who make stretching look so easy. It was a great time, regardless of how much good streching did or didn’t get done, because it was a time which allowed for movement, freedom, creativity and expression. All things which are definitely important parts of self-care.

If you’re feeling a bit wound up today, or if tension is breathing too close to home, definitely give stretching about a try! I’m no expert and don’t know much about it, but one thing for sure is that it is fun, and how can you possibly take yourself too seriously while pretending to be a caterpillar?

Recovery & joy.

Hello everyone! I’ve not been able to write as frequently on here for the past few weeks, which makes me a bit sad. I love the WordPress community I’ve found here, and following along on everybody’s journeys and adventures. Currently I’m working on catching up on all the blogs I have missed reading, so I’ll get through them all eventually!

The past couple of weeks have been hectic and so, so busy, which is why blogging has taken a backseat, and become a little bit neglected. Hopefully in a week or two, things will settle down, and I can get back to rambling on here more often. I’ve been working all the time, as well as spending a lot of time with family and friends, and while both of which has been anxiety provoking, they have brought me so much joy. I am so thankful for the past few weeks, and all the wonderful people in these moments.

A massive highlight has been celebrating our first wedding anniversary!

We spent a weekend driving up and exploring the very tip-top of our group of islands here in New Zealand, a place called Te Rerenga Wairua, or Cape Reinga. It’s over 100km away from the nearest small town, a distance which makes the final destination even more special. Neither of us had been up that far before, and so it was magical to see it all for the first time together.

Right at the very top, the view is magnificent, surreal. There is a cute, little lighthouse, and you can see the waves coming in different directions, crashing against each other, marking where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. It looks like something out of a movie – too spectacular to exist in this life. The deepest, rich blues of the oceans, and the sheer, stark quiet of the place, was incredible.

We camped at a beach about 45 minutes away, at Spirit’s Bay, an isolated, gorgeous coast with a wild swash. About 10m from where we pitched our tent, there was a herd of around 20 horses, all carefree playing and grazing. We drank moscato, got a bit giggly, and reveled in our surroundings. It really was the most special place.

The next day, we explored the Te Paki giant sand dunes. It was nothing like I ever expected, or even could have imagined. It was like stepping into a whole, new land; a sand desert so different from all other landscapes here. The sand dunes are dynamic – ever-changing and shifting. We climbed up so many sand dunes, people were boogie-boarding down them and everything, and I can’t even explain how vast and brilliant the world felt from up there. It made us feel so small, in the best of ways.

This beautiful celebration that we were so blessed to have made me think about a lot of things.

About joy, about luck.

About the little things, which can be as meaningful as the big things too.

It made me think about recovery, and how thankful I am for it.

Without recovery, I doubt I would have been able to get married. I wouldn’t have been able to give all the time and energy that marriage deserves, because I would have been to preoccupied being trapped in the eating disorder. I wouldn’t have been able to wake up and eat cookies for breakfast outside our tent. I wouldn’t have been able to go swimming, and I definitely wouldn’t have made it up those crazy huge sand dunes. I wouldn’t have been able to have fun.

I wouldn’t have been able to live the journey, of our first year of marriage, let alone find joy within it.

Without recovery, from many other things as well as the eating disorder too, I doubt that I would still be here today.

Recovery is the hardest thing. But it is so, so worth it. I promise.

Keep fighting, my sweet friends.

P.S. Hope you like the photos! I’ve decided to try be brave, and start using our own photos instead of CC0 images. It might help to put a face to all these ramblings too.

A morning routine for a bundle of nerves.

As you have probably gathered from this little corner of the internet if you aren’t a stranger – I am a little bundle of nerves, all squishy and squeaky, and sometimes even am an entire, complete, mess. The mess part usually happens when I’m Wednesday-deep in a week-long bender of panic attacks, whereas the wild bundle of nerves part is my general, day-to-day state of being.

Mornings with anxiety are not often pretty. Instead of rolling out of bed and dancing around with some small, singing animals like in a Disney movie, you might kind of topple out of bed, with a mountain of panic about the day ahead rising in your chest. Sometimes I wake up with my heart pounding, my hands and feet numb and with pins and needles, feeling dizzy. It’s weird; like being awoken mid panic attack.

Having a good morning routine has helped me to manage my anxiety immensely in the past, however I also know that I can do better. A set plan of action, or plan of attack, depending on how you look at it, for the morning, has about an 80% chance of making your day just that little bit better and more bearable. This isn’t a scientific statistic, in any way, but I have found that my immediate actions when I wake up have a definite influence on how my day progresses.

Day 3 – Create a new morning routine.

early, morning, mountain range

Here are some ideas that help bundle of nerves me, to cope with mornings, and what helps to ease our good friend anxiety even just a little bit.

Eat breakfast. This sounds like your mum, teacher, and a Wheatbix advertisement all rolled into one, but it’s true. Your body needs fuel to give the day all it needs, and your brain needs fuel to keep recovering. It’s tough work! We cannot expect our bodies to live a good, whole life, when they have nothing to sustain them. Eat some food with lots of nutrients, or eat some food that makes you soul happy. Either way, simply eating something will help, an awful lot.

Get up. Get out. It seems as though every time I want nothing more than to stay in bed, hiding in our room all day, that this is quite possibly the worst thing I could do. Shock horror! Listening to your head telling you to isolate yourself, that everyone hates you, that you don’t deserve anything good, and all that palava, all day long, isn’t going to help you to feel better. It’s rubbish, and it’s just going to make you feel like so. Hop out of bed, and drag yourself out to the mailbox or into the garden, literally anywhere, aside staying in bed. Written from past experience of many miserable days, I promise it will help.

Shower and get dressed. Showering and putting on clothes for the day makes it feel as though the day is official. That it’s here, and that I can’t hide from it! Because I got dressed already! I feel more able to tackle the day when I’m not in pyjamas, and I’m also less likely to hide away from the world too (bonus points).

Do something for you. Having something to look forward to and be excited about, regardless of how small or trivial it seems, is so important for when the going gets tough. Your morning could include planning something fun for later in the week, talking to somebody you care about, having a delicious breakfast (yes, breakfast is definitely something you can get excited about), or even just reading a chapter of a good book. The mindfulness that may accompany this part will also do very nice, very sweet, massaging to those pesky little claws of anxiety.

Mornings can be wonderful opportunities and bright nightmares, all rolled into one. Yet they are also incredibly powerful, because they set the foundation for the rest of the day. What do you do in the morning, which helps you?

Anxiety and radishes.

It was the day. My palms were all sweaty and my heart kept overexaggerating the noxious boom-de-boom sound. My legs felt like not-quite-ready jelly; watery and useless. My thoughts were racing, a mile a minute, about all the dire possibilities that would most definitely, certainly, absolutely happen. All of them. For sure.

Was I on my way to war, you might ask? Was I about to rob a bank? Or perhaps was I about to sacrifice myself to a wild tiger? Another solid guess.

Alas, no. But from the way anxiety was pounding “OHMYGOSH!” throughout my body, they would have been safe guesses.

Today was the day I had signed up to volunteer in the local community garden.

The horror! There is quite possibly nothing more terrifying! Than! Volunteering! At a garden!

I really hope how incredibly illogical it all is, is coming across well. Something that really annoys me about anxiety, aside from, well you know, the anxiety, is how it’s usually completely irrational, and over the top, and just plain batty.

My brain was moping on about how it was probably cancelled but I wouldn’t know, about how the organisers probably already hated me but felt bad so would let me come along anyway, and my personal favourite – that I would accidently kill a really rare native tree, and probably just Have To Die after that.

Anyway, I changed my mind about thirty-one times in the morning, to go or not to go? I so badly wanted to; to help make a difference, and also to prove to myself that I could. Eventually I made a deal with myself that I just had to walk there. I wouldn’t expect anything more. There are many volunteering opportunities each week, so missing one would not be the end of the world. But it would make the next attempt much more difficult.

My go-to list included practising mindfulness, triple checking I had taken my medication, autogenic training, calling anxiety out, and doing Wise Mind. Something right must have clicked, because instead of ending in an usual episode of panic attacks and self-harm, I managed to just be. With the physical symptoms of anxiety throttling, yes, but that’s what they remained as. As symptoms; not all that I became.

After much faffing about, I somehow made it to where I was supposed to be. And somehow, I went in! And did it! We helped to tend to the food forest, and set about readying the garden for the next season. And it was fantastic! I learnt so much, had a great time gardening (it was very theraputic and grounding), and ultimately got to show anxiety whose boss.

Heck yes!

All this crazy anxiety, it’s also ridiculous because it’s so self-centred! It tells me that everything bad is going to happen, to me specifically, and that I am in the centre of every social situation, making an absolute fool of myself, of course. And logically, none of this is true! I am just a person, exactly like everybody else, and I am entirely insignificant in the big scheme of things. And the anxiety is even more so. I was there to help the trees, for goodness sake! Anxiety; please stop making everything about you. You are boring and a dweeb.

Everybody has their own doubts and fears and dreams, and these may play all too loudly and demandingly in their heads too. Ultimately, we are each so small, and that doesn’t mean we aren’t important, but more that everything that seems like it’s too much, is actually survivable. We can keep going, and we are bigger and brighter in different ways than anxiety tells us we are.

I just wanted to share this little piece to say – you can do it! You can do hard things! I believe in you all. You are so much stronger than anxiety’s voice.

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.

Anxiety & Doom; Survival & Resilience.

This weekend has had my anxiety on high alert for weeks leading up to it. There’s nothing quite like trying to practise mindfulness while your brain keeps interrupting with “but think about that thing in 17 days! How scary!” We were attending an engagement party, a 21st birthday, and at a later stage, found ourselves at a TEDx event. All very normal, fun sounding things that I desperately wished I could look forward to, rather than with doom and gloom.

And so yesterday was the day I had been anxious about for weeks. We first went to TEDx, which was something I had wanted to do since I first watched Brene Brown’s Listening to Shame. And it did not disappoint. The speakers were awesome, as were the other people who attended.

Landscape Photography of Mountains Covered in Snow

Afterwards we went to two parties, and by the end of the night I was utterly exhausted. However, more importantly, I was so, so happy. The anxiety over the crowds, the people I don’t know and all the small talk; it had all been there. What made me so happy was that I did it anyway. I lived despite the anxiety, and had some beautiful conversations, and helped create some beautiful memories out of it. It’s like something good grew from something horrible. Life’s funny like that.

All of this is getting me thinking about survival. How we keep surviving what we believe we cannot. If anything, it really just shows us how powerful our brain is for convincing us we cannot, and how even more powerful we are for continuing regardless.

There’s that quote going around, about how we have survived 100% of our worst days. And this is true! Every time we have been utterly convinced that we cannot survive something, that anxiety is too loud or our flaws are perceived to be too great, we have survived anyway. We have picked ourselves up time and time again, and have kept living, alongside everything telling us we can’t.

adult, dark, field

This gives me hope. I have survived everything in my life up until this point. Therefore, there is no reason I can’t keep going.

Throughout all this survival we do on a daily basis, it builds more resilience than we give ourselves credit for. Often the clouds of anxiety convince us that there is no way we can possibly cope with a given situation. But we are tough, we are strong, we are built on the strength of surviving our worst days.

Self love is so important. Because when you’re all alone and it’s 3 in the morning and you’re lying on the floor crying and shaking and wishing it all would end, who’s going to be there for you? You. You have to pick yourself up and find the strength to carry on. At the end of the day, you’re all you’ve got.

And the beauty of this, is that we do. We pick ourselves up and survive what we believe is the impossible, time and time again. Be proud of your resilience, your strength. After all, you have survived it all.