Study Hard

The last time I tried to do education and work together, I kind of failed. I got very stressed, and struggled to do almost everything. It was the time in my life, when I really began to get effected by mental health issues. I think, the development of mental health issues, made it really hard to focus on stuff. So working full time, and studying full time did not work for me. It is no wonder, as I barely left myself with time to function.

Last month I started an IT course through the Open University. Something I was very scared to do, after the last time I did any proper education. The good thing about the Open University, is that you can study at a time more suitable to yourself. Which is handy, especially at this time of year. My work is focusing on the run-up to Christmas, which is always fun, but can also be stressful. Lots of temporary workers come in, so that we can meet customer demand, and it can get a little crazy. The good thing about it, is overtime. Which is really good, when I am trying to clear my feet, financially, before the end of the year. So, I end up working extra days, which means that I have to change when I study. The University information on the course, says I should have to spend 10 hours, or so, a week on studying. Which is perfectly manageable.

The good thing about doing this new course, is that it has given me a bit of focus. All the information you have to work through, is split into smaller chapters, which makes it a lot easier to work through. Like, tonight, I was able to relax, and then study a couple of sections. Because I can break everything down into steps, it is helping me keep on track in getting all necessary tasks completed on time.

It’s nice to feel like you are working towards something.

Distraction

After a crappy few days, there is nothing better than focusing yourself on a task to help calm any bad feeling you may have. It is one of those things that seems impossible to do at times. I guess the important thing is not to force yourself to do something, especially if it is something that you may enjoy. Because forcing yourself on something you actually like, may take the joy away. It is supposed to be a respite for you, not simply another thing to give you anxiety.

I know, with myself, when I have a ‘bad turn’, I usually have to ride it out. I always try to do something, but if I am not in the right frame of mind, then nothing will help. I can easily sit and stare at the same page of a book for an hour, or zone out and miss 2/3 episodes of a TV show. These things that are normally relaxing for me, don’t seem to have the desired effect. There was a time, when I was younger, I actually thought my ‘zoning out’ was simply another thing that made me broken. Because for a long time, that is what I thought of myself. An unfuctioning, broken person. It has taken years of work to realise that I needed to give myself a bit of a break. Being harsh on yourself for having shit mental health, just makes your mental health worse. It is a vicious circle.

When I realised this, I started giving myself a time scale. For example, still staring at the same book page after 15 minutes, close the book and give it a rest. It became a rule that I followed, something I had to train myself to do. Because, if I didn’t, I would do nothing, and then feel bad because I had done nothing. I think that is the hardest thing about trying to self-manage your mental health. You should be strict enough with yourself that you push yourself forward, but you don’t want to be too strict and send yourself backwards. It is hard, and something it has taken me many years to try and get better at. But, I am getting there slowly.

What can be a distraction? Well, anything really. Here is a wee list of things that I use to help me feel a bit better.

Go for a walk- This could be anywhere. Luckily we have a lot of coastal walks around where I live, and I find the smell of the sea air quite relaxing. No matter where it is, a walk is something that gives you the good feeling of exercise. You may go to the park, walk to the shops, walk to a friends or even just walk round the block. I love walking, as it always has the ability of helping me de-stress.

Listen to music- Music can be great. It is a good way to block the world out, which is good if that is what is giving you anxiety. I have a variety of music tastes, and one day I’ll be listening to Pantera, the next Steps, and then some Faithless. Because different things can trigger my anxiety, different music can ease it. Unfortunately, I have a habit of leaving my iPod (with my full music collection) at home, but that is where iTunes, Spotify or Amazon Music come in handy. Every few weeks I make a new playlist. I pick a range of songs, from all different genres. It means, I can have the playlist saved to my phone, have music that is for my mood (whatever that may be), and it doesn’t take up all my phone’s memory.

Watch a TV show- This is hit and miss with me. I don’t have a lot of patience to sit and watch a TV show a lot of the time. But when I am in the mood, I can sit for several hours with the same program. The main services I use are Netflix and Crunchyroll. Again, I have a variety of shows that I am working through. So I can put on The Big Bang Theory when I need background noise, Pretty Little Liars when I want to sit and focus on something longer than 25 minutes or Naruto because I LOVE NARUTO. This again, is because my mood is never the same 2 days in a row, so I like variety.

Watch Youtube- I am addicted to youtube. It is the app I go on to when I am getting ready for bed. I love the variety. I love the variety of content that I can find on there. Watching some daily vlogs do inspire me sometimes, by seeing how motivated other people are, it kind of motivates me. I also like retro gaming, tech stuff (mostly mobiles and computers) and anime (Naruto) commentaries. The good thing is with youtube, especially on the most frequent app updates, you can click one video, and it will automatically set a playlist with similar videos, that it plays automatically. It never fails to cheer me up.

Draw something- I used to be better at this, than what I am now. Nothing I do, ever, compares to how drawing and painting makes me feel. Because of the lack of practice I do, the quality is kind of crappy, but that doesn’t even really matter to me. Whether the cat I drew, looks like a cat, doesn’t matter. I have bought myself these colouring books (the colouring for grown-ups, ones), and as much as I do enjoy them, they aren’t the same as doodling my own wee pattern, and colouring that in. My sketchbook is a mess, but it is mine, and sometimes I can look back and see progress in myself, in how I feel. Which is nice.

As I have said before though, you can do almost anything to distract yourself if you are struggling with mental health. But, do remember not to force yourself to do anything, give it a go, but if you can’t focus, stop. These things are usually so good at being distractions, because you enjoy doing them.

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Mental health is hard. If you are really struggling, you can visit your GP for help. I have found both Breathing Space  and Samaritans to be very helpful. You are never alone as what you feel, and there are so many people out there to help. 

Something New

Everyone has moments in life, where they go from the top of a hypothetical ladder, only to then end up at the very bottom of another. The most common example of this, happens during childhood. When you are one of the oldest kids in Primary School, to start as the youngest again, when you go to High School. There is nothing bad about that, it is just something that sometimes happens. It can through everything up in the air, and make you reconsider quite a lot in your life.

I happens in adulthood as well. For example, I worked in a department at my work for over 3 years, I was settled, it was a really nice atmosphere and work was fun. But last week, I was moved to another department. There was no major changes, even my shift patterns stayed the same, the only thing that changed was the process I now had to do. And as easy going I tried to be about the whole situation, I couldn’t help feeling a little hard done by. Like, the whole ‘why me’ feeling, with thoughts of ‘what did I do wrong’. Being most experienced in one area, just to be moved back down to the least experience, is not a particularly nice feeling. And it is a feeling that is quite hard to get out of.

But, like a lot in life, these situations become easier if we have a better mindset. So rather that focusing on what I am missing out on, I am trying to shift focus onto what I am gaining. For example, the work situation, yes it is a pain, but it is also a new experience. Which in a workplace which is as ever-changing as mine, it’s only a good thing to be as experienced as possible. So, maybe that is a good thing. Another good thing is, that despite how anti-social I can be sometimes, I do like meeting new people. I like to be on good terms with people, used to be quite obsessed with it, actually. So, I try to be nice, and helpful, so that folk thing nicely of me. I have already met so many nice people at my work, and have created friendships that will last for years to come. Which is a good thing.

The hard thing is, that as well as staying focused on the good stuff, I also have to ignore the negativity. Some of the people who moved departments with me, really hate it. Like, all they do is complain. And when you are already struggling to be positive, someone being overly negative isn’t really that great. I remember my first job, being told during training that the mood of people you encounter, is contagious. It was all based on how if you smiled at a customer, they’d smile back, and carry that small positive action to someone else, and make the world a wee bit nicer. But the same happens with negativity, if the first voice you hear in the morning is ‘I can’t be bothered, this place is shit’, then that thought infiltrates your perception on what happens that day.

I guess, the main thing is to keep going with a smile if you can. It is hard, but it makes so many things easier. Well, maybe not everything, but even if it makes one hour of a day slightly easier, it is worth it.

Tuning In

Music is a constant in my life, and it is probably the same with anyone reading this. Of course, you may not actively seek out to listen to music, but it is still there. It is in the shops you visit, it accompanies your favourite TV shows and is on the radio station you listen to in your car. It is everywhere. Music is that one think that helps give everything rhythm.

A lot has changed in how we get music, to purposefully listen to.When I was wee, people taped songs off the radio. Something that was a bit of an art-form, if I were to be honest. Trying to get as much of a song as possible, without the voice of the station DJ. I remember swapping my tapes with friends, as everyone had different mixes. It was fun, and I could see myself listening to the Pepsi Chart show, spending the large portion of my Sunday, waiting for my favourite songs. I was young and daft, but weren’t we all

As soon as I had my own money, I would by music magazines and any album (at that point CDs) I could afford. The thrill of new music, and getting to read the liner notes made me feel like I was getting a snippet at a band I liked. It wasn’t long after that things changed forever. The internet came into public use, and friends I knew started using services like Napster and Limewire to download songs. It was the first time, for many, that they could access an artist’s entire back-catalogue with a few clicks, and it didn’t cost a penny. I, myself, tried Limewire, but a virus and incorrectly labelled music files, caused me to opt put of that option. I still liked my CDs.

Eventually things progressed. The torrent sites were forced offline or became unreliable, and online digital music stores like iTunes, reaped the benefit. However, with today’s faster internet speeds, people are opting into streaming content. To the stage, where most radio stations stream live content from their websites. It means that you can now pay a monthly fee, if you want to, and stream your favourite artists to your games console, smart TV, mobile, or almost every device that can get an internet connection. It is getting to the stage, where a lot of people who consume music, don’t even need to purchase it anymore. I find that sad.

I use streaming services,  like Spotify and Amazon Music, but I use them for either ‘music-on-the-go’ or to find new music to listen to. The last few albums I purchased, was for artists that were on my recommended playlist on Spotify. These services are smart, they know what artists you listen to most, and give you new music based on that. It’s very intuitive.

I am friends with a lot of musicians, all of which make the most money when someone buys an album or some other merchandise. So, as a result, I have always bought music.I like to try and get the physical CD, or even vinyl record, to put money back into an artist I enjoy. I think that is only fair. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks the same. For every legitimate streaming site, there are 3 or 4 illegal streaming services. Now sites like Putlocker maybe are more about movies and TV shows, but the point still stands. Is it really fair to enjoy something, but not pay for it?

Maybe it is because I have been stung by people wanting things for free, myself. A few years back, when I was on my last year/ just left college, I tried to get a graphic design business up and running. It was actually the main reason this very blog was started, to promote the development of my new company. Unfortunately, it didn’t take off quite like I expected. I struggled getting clients, because I was on my own, and had no experience. But I would get interest from people, mostly from established local companies, requesting some work to be done. Unfortunately, these people wanted everything done for free. I kind of excepted this was going to be part of starting up myself. I had a part-time job, but stepped up to full time, to pay for bills and things. The people, who wanted the free labour, would send me emails when they knew I was working (I gave every perspective client my work rota, so they knew when I’d be available). I would finish working a long day in a call center, and would have several emails from people, all sent during that day, asking why I was ignoring them. I was working, my phone was off, and I couldn’t access my private emails, something I had already explained. I would get dog’s abuse off these people, who said that they were doing me a favour. But I worked on, and sent them the final work and they refused to acknowledge me.  They had previously said that the publicity would be good for me, so they shouldn’t have to pay. It was horrible. I lost all confidence, and to-date, I kind of put everything on hold.

And that is why, I don’t think I could sleep at night, knowing that I was taking in the work of other creatives for nothing. So no Kodi boxes for me, you can keep your ‘chipped’ Sky systems, and I’ll pay for what I can afford. And I will appreciate it all.

 

Freak Out, Let It Go

I have been suffering panic attacks more than usual over the last few days, and have ripped into a few people. Something that is so unlike me. So, I hope people read this and kind of understand why i may have been strange with them. 

My mind must be wired wrong, or something. It doesn’t take very much, for the bad thoughts to start coming into my head. If I think someone is angry at me, I start feeling that it’s my fault. That a better person would have not made anyone angry. Of course, in a calm state I would know thinking like that is irrational, but when you start to panic, nothing seems too much. 
The first sign that a panic attack is coming, is that my heart starts pounding like a hammer, and i can feel it getting faster. I can feel my breath starting to catch in my throat, which if bad, can cause me to get a strain like a stitch. And as it all gets worse, and i lose more control, I can get dizzy. I shake so bad that physically can’t do anything. It is horrific. 

If I can feel a panic attack coming on, I will try to take myself out of the situation triggering it. If I can. Sometimes it comes on so fast that I can’t react. I can try to force myself out of the triggering situation, but that is hard when everything goes to jelly, and sometimes you can’t even see straight.  

Anxiety is crippling. People have presisted in talking to me, when I’ve had an attack. I struggle to get thoughts together enough, and if I reply it is usually so far out of my character. I could tell someone to fuck off, really offend them, and i haven’t even thought about it. I have some times been in such a panic that I don’t even remember what I have said. The feeling that someone could be angry with you over something you can’t control is awful. And it can make it worse. It is a vicious cycle of shaming yourself and then panicking because of the shame. 

The worst thing is, it there may actually be nothing specific to set me off. Someone could say ‘hello’, and I could start wondering if there is something wrong with me that I have been talked to. That I didn’t answer right, and that I am an idiot. And if I think someone thinks bad of me because of myself, anxiety strikes. 

I have become a lot better at dealing with anxiety. I recognise when I get a feeling of my heart starting to race, or when breathing gets hard. I try not to put myself in a situation where I could triggered. It does infuriate me, that sometimes, that is not enough. 

It’s a hard thing to get someone to understand, but I thought I’d better try. I’m tired of apologising for something that no one seems to really understand.